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Lennon turns the other cheek over reported criticism of Celtic's tactics

Neil Lennon will send his side out in pursuit of his 100th win since taking over as manager of Celtic in March, 2010 this evening.

Neil Lennon has rebuffed alleged criticisms of his side's playing style. Picture: SNS
Neil Lennon has rebuffed alleged criticisms of his side's playing style. Picture: SNS

If Celtic are successful in defeating Benfica, the 41-year-old veteran of numerous European campaigns as a player insists it would be the most important victory of his tenure since it would secure a place in the last 16 of the Champions League and a qualification bonus of £3,167,000. Almost as importantly for Lennon, it would bring recognition that his Celtic team has more to it than the ugly side reportedly described by the Benfica goalkeeper, Artur.

The 31-year-old Brazilian had earlier said: "Each coach chooses a style of game for teams but from what I have seen Celtic play negative football and only seek to profit from their chances without too much effort in the field."

Lennon was irked by that assessment and with Joe Ledley, Gary Hooper, Kris Commons and Georgios Samaras all fit and in contention for starting places, and captain Scott Brown expected to join them, intends to ignore the fact a score draw will be good enough to see Celtic over the line, provided Spartak don't beat Barcelona in Moscow earlier in the day.

Instead, he intends to go all out for the three points that would secure the club's third appearance in the last 16 after successive qualifications under Gordon Strachan in 2006 and 2007.

"It wouldn't get any better if we could win and go through. Listen, I don't want to say too much because I don't want to get ahead of myself. I say that because I think this game is so hard, I really do. But, if we win, it will be the best thing I've done in my career."

Lennon is attempting to temper expectation while at the same time nullify any negativity which may envelope his players, most of whom are encountering Champions League football for the first time. He says they have risen to the challenge with aplomb, and are undeserving of the comments attributed to Artur that were later rebutted by his club.

"If we're negative, why would I bring on a centre forward [Tony Watt] for a defender [Mikael Lustig] with 15 minutes to go against Barcelona. In both games against Barcelona, I started with two strikers. So we haven't played negatively at all. We scored three goals in two games against Barca and three in Moscow, so we've done okay."

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