Neil Lennon hoping that the goals will come
Celtic looking for win to keep hopes alive
Celtic manager Neil Lennon.
The notion that Celtic have to beat Ajax to keep alive their hopes of progression from Group H is unavoidable. Neil Lennon stopped marginally short of labelling the visit of the Dutch champions as a must-win game, but Celtic’s manager admitted defeat would be disastrous.
“If we lose, it would probably end our aspirations to try and qualify,” he said. Hints at a points target from the back-to-back fixtures against Ajax followed. “I don’t want to look too far ahead but if we could take four out of six, which is a big ask, but doable, we would then have a home game against Milan that I think we could win as well.”
Lennon’s anxiety over this match is understandable. In order for Celtic to kick-start their campaign they must score for the first time in this group phase and eliminate the profligacy which has been apparent against both Milan and Barcelona. “If we are not ruthless then good teams take advantage of it, as Barcelona did in our previous game,” he said.
“We won’t dwell on missed chances, I’m just pleased that we are creating them. It’s inevitable that the goals will come. We are at home. We want to try and win the game. We will have plenty of attacking options on the pitch.”
Score at Hibernian
One of those is likely to be James Forrest, after the young winger came off the Celtic bench to score an equaliser at Hibernian on Saturday.
On the night Celtic lost 2-0 in Milan, Forrest was in a hospital bed. Lennon confirmed just how serious Celtic’s fears were at that stage. “We first thought it could have been meningitis but thankfully it wasn’t as serious as that,” he said.
“We haven’t really got to the bottom of what it was. He lost a stone in weight and scared us all, really. But he has recovered well. If he is fit and healthy going into the game tomorrow – which we hope he is – then he is good enough to give any team problems.”
In the context of Lennon himself, there would be clear significance attached to the defeat of a team managed by Frank de Boer, who is rightly regarded as one of the brightest coaching talents in Europe. De Boer will need little by way of introduction to Celtic, having spent the latter half of the 2003-04 season as a Rangers player. His twin brother, Ronald, was at Ibrox for four years.