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Europa League: Lennon sure Celtic skipper Brown will stay

By Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon remains confident captain Scott Brown will commit his future to Celtic even though he can hold talks with other clubs this week.

The midfielder is about to enter the final six months of his current contract and has yet to put pen to paper on a new deal.

However, Lennon has no fears about his skipper looking elsewhere and believes Brown's Celtic future will be secured in the coming days.

He said: “I think we are pretty close to getting the deal done.

“It's just a question of talking to his representatives as soon as possible and coming to a resolution.

“I think he wants to stay and I don't think we are far away. It's dragged its heels a bit but I'm quite confident we can get it done.

“There are all sorts of reasons why it's not been done yet but it's certainly not been for the lack of trying.

“We all know he can talk to clubs on Thursday but I had a chat with him today, he wants to stay here and I'm confident we can get it done over the next few days.”

Brown has been out of action since mid-September with an ankle injury but has returned to training and could be in contention for tomorrow's Europa League game against Atletico Madrid at Parkhead.

Lennon added: “He has trained today and we will talk things over with him and the medical team this evening and see if he can be in contention.

“It would be nice to have him in the squad but, if it's too early for him tomorrow, then he will definitely be involved at the weekend.”

While confident of securing Brown on a new deal, Lennon refused to be drawn on potential targets ahead of the January transfer window.

The Bhoys have been linked with Maritimo's Baba Diawara, as well as Scotland striker Jordan Rhodes after Lennon took in Huddersfield's recent game against Charlton.

Celtic have slashed Rangers' lead at the summit of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League from 12 points to just four points in the space of nine days.

But Lennon has no fears about the resumption of their European

campaign derailing their efforts in domestic competition after bridging the gap.

He said: “I don't think it will. The Rennes game, when we won 3-1, was a real confidence boost, it was a real shot in the arm for the players.

“We've not looked back since then.

“For all the people who think we are taking this competition lightly, we're not. We're serious about it.

“We want European football at the club and we have enjoyed the challenges so far. We have two more huge games coming up.”

Celtic sit third in Group I and travel to Udinese in their final group match.

Asked if this clash with Atletico Madrid is a must-win match, Lennon said: “A draw might give us a slight chance of qualifying but a win would make our chances a lot better.

“We've got home advantage, we are in good form on the back of probably our best performance of the season at the weekend.

“It's a game that we are really looking forward to.

“They are a class side and they played very well against us in the corresponding fixture in Madrid.

“They won this tournament not so long ago and they have a team packed full of quality players.

“We are under no illusions, it's going to be a real test for us.”

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