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Let’s do a Braga, urges Celtic boss Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon has urged his Celtic players to do to Utrecht in the Europa League what Braga did to them in the Champions League.

The Hoops were denied the opportunity to join Old Firm rivals Rangers in the group stages of Europe's top competition by the Portuguese side.

Braga boasted a commanding 3-0 lead from the home leg before claiming the first goal in the return in Glasgow to effectively kill off the tie even though Celtic went on to win that match 2-1 in front of their own fans.

Lennon's men now find themselves in the driving seat with a 2-0 advantage from Parkhead as they battle Utrecht for a place in the Europa League group stages tonight and the manager wants his team to emulate their conquerors.

Lennon said: “If you want to use comparisons with the Braga game, when they scored at Celtic Park, the tie was more or less effectively over.

“We feel that could be the same tomorrow night. We've had three clean-sheets in a row so we want to take a lot from that as well.

“We'll just go into the game the way we go into every game.

“They are a good side. We are playing well at the minute but it will be different tomorrow night because of the circumstances, it will be a different quality of opposition. We are capable of scoring and we have lots of positives in the team. We've got goals in us from different areas of the pitch and we will go there in a positive frame of mind.”

Lennon admits the pressure is on to succeed in the Europa League where they failed in the Champions League but believes Braga's success against Sevilla only highlights the level of difficulty they faced in landing a place among Europe's elite.

“There is always pressure and there are different facets of pressure,” he said. “The next game is always the most important and that one happens to be Utrecht tomorrow night.

“We did lose to a Braga team who knocked out Sevilla so they are obviously quality opposition.

“It shows they are probably a better side than what a lot of the media make them out to be.

“They have beaten Sevilla home and away and they scored four goals in Sevilla, there are not many teams who do that. They were comfortable winners in the end.

“Utrecht are a quality side as well and we will give them the utmost respect.

“But we want to go through and our players will be fully focused on that.”

Goals from Efrain Juarez and Georgios Samaras gave Celtic a first-leg lead last week but Lennon is mindful of the club's poor away record on the continent.

“You are never too confident,” he admitted. “I thought the game was a good game and I thought that we deserved to win the game.

“We know that we are in for a difficult night but I think they will be in for a difficult night as well with what we have in the team. So we will set the team up to be hard to beat but we will try to be positive as well.”

A 4-0 win over St Mirren at the weekend to maintain a 100 per cent record in the league provided the perfect preparation for tonight's match.

“It was a good day,” said Lennon. “It was just one day but we were very pleased with the performance of the team and the individual performances as well.”

Belfast Telegraph


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