THE glaring subtext to Celtic’s meeting with Cluj this evening is the chance for Neil Lennon’s team to gain a measure of revenge for that desperately disappointing night back in August, when the Romanians came to Glasgow and left with a place in the play-off round of Champions League qualification.

Cluj's inability to overcome the next hurdle in the shape of Slavia Prague, and the serendipity of the draw for the Europa League group stages, means that the sides have a quickfire chance to renew hostilities, but retribution isn’t the first thought on the Celtic manager’s mind.

Instead, Neil Lennon is focused on the loftier goal of charting what his team have learned from that chastening experience, rather than the baser need for revenge.


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“I was pleased to get Cluj again because it was a quick opportunity to right a wrong, if you want to call it that,” Lennon said.

“I don’t want to build it up as a revenge game or anything like that. The important thing is that we play well and maximise the home advantage. That’s really what I’m focusing on.

“We got off to a really good start with the point in Rennes and if you want to qualify you have to win your home games.

“Looking back, we were capable of winning over the two games but there has been a marked improvement in our performances and our cohesion, our shape and fluidity. We look more assured since then and I’m looking for more of the same tomorrow.

“There was a smouldering in the players [after the Cluj defeat]. They reacted brilliantly in the two AIK games and it was a great performance in Rennes. I’m not saying that we’re going to put in another great performance, but if we can go on the front foot and achieve that, then we have a great chance of winning.

“It’s their chance to show that they can play on this stage and really perform at this level. They owe that to themselves, because they’re certainly good enough. If we can’t get the performance then get the win, because that would put us in a healthy position.

“They’re a tough nut to crack so I want us to play like we can play – that high tempo and attacking options coming from different angle. I think we’ll feed off the atmosphere as well.

“I don’t really look at [that Cluj game] negatively or positively. You just have to put a perspective on it and look at what you’ve got in front of you.


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“Gradually we’re improving, and it’s been steady and really good progress since then, so I’ve been delighted with the reaction."

The one crumb of comfort from the previous Celtic Park meeting between the sides from Lennon’s point of view was the way his attacking players stepped up to the plate after a fairly dismal collective first-half showing.

That the three goals scored after the break still weren’t enough to send them through was down to defensive failings which Lennon hopes have since been addressed, and he expects a stronger base to build from with the players he now has available to him.

If they can do their jobs, he is more than confident the likes of Odsonne Edouard, Ryan Christie and James Forrest will do theirs.

“They’re a really good trio, and Odsonne and Ryan are still quite young and playing with a decent level of confidence,” he said.

“When they’re in full flow, they’re really difficult to stop. They were dynamite in the second half [against Cluj] but we missed a trick in the first half because we didn’t get the ball forward quickly enough and we didn’t get it into the right areas.

“Allied to those three, there’s the likes of (Christopher) Jullien, (Boli) Bolingoli, (Kristoffer) Ajer, (Scott) Brown and (Callum) McGregor, giving us a great platform.


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“I hope they expect the Celtic who turned up in the first half, not the second half. In the second half we scored three goals and I don’t see many clubs getting three against Cluj in 45 minutes. It showed me what we were capable of, but we let the first 45 minutes drift away from us. We were passive and we can’t be like that in Europe.

“So, we want to start as strongly as we can and get the decibel level up, because the players can really react to that.”

Although he does have greater options to choose from this time around, Lennon is likely to be without Moritz Bauer, Mikey Johnston and Tom Rogic this evening.

“Bauer still has some swelling around the ankle,” he said. “We’ll see how he is.

“Mikey is training but was a bit sore after Wednesday’s session, so it might be too soon for him. “Rogic is feeling his groin a little bit.”