PREVIEW: Celtic confident of progress

Neil Lennon will invoke the spirit of the Lisbon Lions as he tries to guide Celtic into the knockout stages of the Champions League when they play Benfica on Tuesday.


The penultimate Group G encounter will take place at the Stadium of Light but Lennon will take his players to the Estadio Nacional to train in the morning, the scene of the club's famous European Cup final win over Inter Milan in 1967.

Several of the Lions were on the official flight on Monday where they were joined by the trophy, which took up two seats at the back of the plane.

A win for Celtic will guarantee them a place in the last 16 with a score draw being enough if Barcelona beat Spartak Moscow, and Lennon is looking for every advantage.

He said: "1967 is a pivotal day in our history and we all aspire to reach those heights again.

"The Lisbon Lions are a very special team, a unique bunch of men in the history of the club, and it is very poignant that we are playing in Lisbon.

"We will train at the stadium in the morning and let these current players get a feel of what is a special piece of history for our club.

"We did it (trained there) in 2007 and it might inspire them to play as well as they can."

Skipper Scott Brown (hip), Joe Ledley (groin), and striker Gary Hooper (hamstring) all travelled but Lennon has doubts over one of them, whom he refused to name.

He said: "Two out of three will definitely be fit.

"I have a worry over one of them, we will assess him until as late as possible to give him every chance to pass himself fit.

"If he is not fit to start then we would hope top have him at least on the subs bench."

After their remarkable 2-1 win over Barcelona at Parkhead earlier in the month, the Scottish champions are two points behind the Catalan giants with seven points from four games.

Benfica are in third place on four points while Spartak Moscow are bottom with three.

Jorge Jesus admits Celtic's remarkable win over the Catalan giants was not in his script.

He said: "It is true that Celtic have been a surprise, especially in the win against Barca, it messed the numbers a bit.

"But Celtic is a team with a lot of value, although tomorrow [Tuesday] is still open.

"They will probably not defend as deeply as they did against Barcelona, but they will be defensive and explore opportunities from free-kicks and corners, that's where they can surprise us.

"Football is like that, a team like Barcelona can have 80 per cent possession then lose the game, but that doesn't happen frequently."

Lennon picked out Melgarejo as one player to look out for but the Paraguayan left-back did not take the flattery too seriously, as he denied that Europa League place was Benfica's most realistic target.

He said: "It is very nice to hear another coach say good things about me but more important is my coach and what he teaches me and tells me.

"We have still two games, it's going to be hard (to qualify for the last 16) but Benfica is a big team who thinks big.

"We are confident we can win the game."

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