Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football Scottish Celtic

Johnston is going all out to impress Lennon

On mission: Mikey Johnston wants to nail down a place in Celtic’s starting line-up
On mission: Mikey Johnston wants to nail down a place in Celtic’s starting line-up

By Andy Sims

Mikey Johnston wants to use Celtic's Champions League qualifying campaign to cement a regular place in Neil Lennon's side.

The 20-year-old winger impressed in a goalscoring display against Sarajevo in the opening round and is set to be handed another chance when the Hoops face Estonian champions Nomme Kalju tonight.

Celtic may be 5-0 up from the first leg but the clash is still another important stepping stone for Johnston ahead of Saturday's Ladbrokes Premiership opener against St Johnstone.

"Hopefully we can get the job done and maybe I'll get some more minutes," he said. "There's a lot we can get out of it in terms of getting game time, and we want to get the job done.

"The season is starting next week as well so it's something we can take things from.

"It's always going to be tough (with competition for places) at a big club like Celtic, but I hope it's going to be a big season for me.

"I've just got to keep working hard and hopefully I can get chances."

Lennon, meanwhile, will hand new signing Christopher Jullien his eagerly-awaited debut tonight.

The powerful defender has been building up his match fitness since his £7m switch from Toulouse, and Lennon is ready to unleash him in Tallinn.

"Jullien needs some game time so he will start," said Lennon. "There's a few players we want to get up to match sharpness.

"He's been patient, he's worked very hard, he's had a couple of bounce games and he's ready to play now."

Lennon also revealed that Callum McGregor and James Forrest have not travelled in order to give them a rest ahead of Saturday's Premiership opener against St Johnstone.

Despite Celtic being all but certain of a place in the third qualifying round, and a tie with either Israeli side Maccabi Tel-Aviv or Cluj of Romania, Lennon has demanded another professional performance.

"Obviously we are in a very strong position but it's a game we want to win," added the Ulsterman.

"We'll change a few of the players but we're here to win the tie and keep the momentum going with the league campaign starting on Saturday.

"Complacency is your enemy in a situation like this. Most people will see Celtic's qualification as a foregone conclusion but we have to be as professional as we can.

"It's important to come here, compete and try to win the game.

"These are difficult ties in the Champions League and we must prepare the team as best as we can."

Kalju may face a thankless task but the match, moved to the 14,400-capacity A Le Coq Arena, is still a huge occasion for the hosts.

Coach Roman Kozhukhovskyi said: "We are very much looking forward to the game and will go into it giving our maximum effort.

"It has been a very busy week with a lot of analysing the mistakes that we made in Glasgow and trying to eliminate them in Tallinn.

"It's a big game and no-one needs extra motivation."

Captain Maximiliano Ugge smiled as he added: "This is football, we know that anything can happen.

"We know that scoring five goals is certainly not easy, but we'll do our best."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph