NEIL LENNON may not be quite prepared to make any bold statements about Celtic winning the Europa League just yet, even though rival managers like Cluj’s Dan Petrescu are quite happy to do so on his behalf, but that’s not to say he isn’t excited about what this team can go on to achieve.

His words may sound a note of caution about how far his team can go in the tournament, but his animated manner when the question is put to him rather gives his quiet confidence away.

The Celtic manager was prepared to concede that he sees the quarter final stage as a realistic target, and if his players can rise to that challenge, then he sees no reason not to dream of what might be.

A lot may depend of course on what happens at the draw for the last 32 of the competition in Nyon on Monday, but Lennon is hoping their impressive group campaign is rewarded.

“Two [Scottish] teams in the last 20 years have made the final, so there’s an incentive there,” Lennon said.

“If that’s the glass ceiling, I’ll take that…and maybe try to win it this time. But it’s a long way off.

“You start to get really excited about it if you make the quarter-finals. I think that should be our first aim, to try and get to the quarters and take it from there if we can.

“I hope it’s a favourable [draw]. We want to make inroads into it if we can. We’ve had a brilliant campaign so far and we don’t want it to end. We’re excited about it, so we’ll see what Monday brings.

“I think [Dan Petrescu] was genuine. He even said to me afterwards that we have a fantastic squad, he was very complimentary. Sometimes we get credit from other areas rather than back home.

“I think the players deserve that I think they’ve been brilliant but we’re not wanting to rest on just a really good group campaign we want to forge ahead. Hopefully we will bring in reinforcements in January to add to what we already have.”

Of course, having beaten Lazio home and away, Celtic will feel they can handle whatever the draw throws at them.

“We can,” said Lennon. “But we don’t want to rest on that and for that to be the big feather in the cap this season. We want more big scalps and we want to forge ahead.

“We will see what Monday brings and then we will look forward to that when the time comes around. Ultimately at the minute my whole focus is on the remainder of the month.”

Indeed, Celtic’s captain for the evening in Thursday night’s dead rubber defeat in Cluj, Olivier Ntcham, believes that it will be the other teams in the draw that are hoping to avoid Lennon’s men.

“I don’t really want to speculate on who our opponents will be, we will take anyone,” Ntcham said.

“I think that clubs may fear facing Celtic though because we have shown how good a team we are.”

The midfielder capped a remarkable turnaround in his Celtic fortunes by leading out the team in Transylvania, having seemed destined for the exit door after some ill-advised comments in the French press in the summer.

“It was a little bit funny for me, it’s the first time I’ve captained the team,” he said. “I was happy with that.

“It was an honour for me to be the captain for this football club, and I’m really happy too that I had the chance to do it in the Europa League.

“I think it was a good game. We started the second half a little bit sloppily, that’s why we conceded the goals.

“We had already secured top spot though, and overall the group was very good for us.”

One thing that is for sure is that Ntcham is very much back in Lennon’s good books, even if he is still finding regular starts a little hard to come by among the fierce competition in Celtic’s midfield.

His manager raved about his display in Romania after the match, and particularly the way he helped his young midfield partner, 18-year-old Scott Robertson, through his debut in the Hoops.

“I didn’t hear what he said, but if he said nice things about me then I’ll take that,” he said.

“He always gives me confidence on the field, and it’s great to know that he is noticing it in my play.

“It was a little bit frustrating at the start of the season, but now I’m playing a little bit more and I’m happier as a result.

“I’ve been training well, and we all know that we have to work really hard in training to prove to the manager we deserve to be in the team or starting games.”