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Nostalgia adds to desire to qualify, says Matthews

ADAM MATTHEWS will train with his Celtic team-mates at the National Stadium in Lisbon this morning, where the smell of nostalgia will hang heavy in the air.

Adam Matthews will not allow himself to be distracted
Adam Matthews will not allow himself to be distracted

The replica European Cup awarded to the Parkhead club 45 years ago, when they defeated Internazionale at this quaint little ground set in the middle of a public park, will also make an appearance after Neil Lennon's squad have departed.

Many of the Celtic fans who have travelled in hope and expectation that they can witness the current team write another chapter in their history by qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League, will be given the opportunity to have their photo taken with the piece of silverware, which took up two seats on the club's official charter to Portugal.

It all serves to emphasise to Welshman Matthews and his team-mates from around the globe the significance of this place. History is all fine and well, but it is the present and the future which excites Matthews most.

"Lisbon is a massive piece of Celtic's history," said the 20-year-old defender. "So, we know it is going to be a special moment, not just for us, but for the fans as well. Hopefully, we can do it. If not, then we can do it against Spartak. But, every football fans knows Lisbon has a place in Celtic's hearts, so it would be very special if we could do it here."

The "it" in question is winning or achieving a score draw to secure a place in the knockout round, provided Spartak do not spring a major surprise by defeating Barcelona in Moscow.

That game will have finished by the time Celtic kick-off in the Estadio da Luz, but Matthews will not interrupt his warm-up in pursuit of the result. He understands it is what Celtic do that matters, and is not fazed by what lies in front of him. "You have to go into the game looking forward to it and just try and enjoy it," he said. "That's when you play your best football and, hopefully, get the win. We knew after the Barcelona game that the job wasn't done. It was a massive step, but we've to get a win in the last two games, and I'm sure we can do that."

That would silence critics such as Benfica's goalkeeper, Artur, who reportedly described Celtic's style as negative and ugly, though Matthews believes their results have already provided a perfect riposte. "Especially away, we've defended really well and hit well on the break. We've got to keep doing that."

Seven points have been won playing this way, but the big prize – qualification – has still to be wrapped up. Matthews added: "We knew it was going to be a hard group, but we were quietly confident we could get the points we needed to get through. We've got to be on our A game against Benfica. I don't think you can go into any game looking for a point. That's when you just sit back and lose games. We have to go and try to get the win."

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