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'Heady days' for Celtic ahead of Benfica test

Published: Tuesday 18 September 2012, 20.10CET
Neil Lennon says his Celtic FC players are "out to make their names in this competition" ahead of the visit of SL Benfica, who have an eye on the knockout phase already.
by Claire Gray
from Celtic Park

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Published: Tuesday 18 September 2012, 20.10CET

'Heady days' for Celtic ahead of Benfica test

Neil Lennon says his Celtic FC players are "out to make their names in this competition" ahead of the visit of SL Benfica, who have an eye on the knockout phase already.

Back at this stage of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in four years, Celtic FC manager Neil Lennon can scarcely wait for his club's Group G opener against SL Benfica. However, Jorge Jesus's side are determined to dampen the party atmosphere at Celtic Park.

Celtic
Manager Neil Lennon

These are very heady days for myself, the backroom team and the players. To bring these nights back to Celtic Park is fantastic. To manage this club is beyond my expectations, but to do it in the Champions League is very special. The players have worked very hard to get to where we are now and they really want to make their names in this competition.

There's always expectation – huge expectation. Can we qualify? Who knows. I want to see the team playing as well as I know they can. I want to see them express themselves. Benfica have been consistent performers at this level for a long, long time. They have an excellent forward line and the experience of playing at this level, which is something we don't.

I love the Champions League. I love the way every manager has a different philosophy and ideas on the game. It's very interesting to pit your wits against these teams. It's a great challenge for myself and the backroom team, one we're looking forward to. We don't want to be also-rans, we're not here to make up the numbers – we are going to compete in this group.

Weekend result
Saturday: Saint Johnstone FC
2-1 Celtic (Tade 18, Vine 80; Commons 4)
Forster; Lustig, Wilson, Mulgrew, Izaguirre (Rogne 61); Forrest, Brown (Nouioui 79), Wanyama, Commons; Hooper, Fedor (Watt 58).

• Nicolás Fedor made his debut as Celtic suffered their first league defeat of the season. They are fifth in the Scottish Premier League with eight points from their opening five fixtures  their worst start to a top-flight campaign since 1998/99.

Team news
Giorgos Samaras (elbow), Anthony Stokes (ankle), Paddy McCourt (groin), Filip Twardzik (groin) and Beram Kayal (ankle) are all sidelined. Joe Ledley (groin) has not trained so is unlikely to feature, but Scott Brown is available despite tweaking a hamstring at the weekend.

Benfica
Coach Jorge Jesus

My concern as a coach is to get to know the opposition. Missing players are a secondary concern. We work on a model and a strategy to match all teams, whether they are Barcelona or any other side. We always want to do better than the rest, in this case Celtic.

It is important to focus on the game. All our players have the same importance for us, and we have different players that we can use in different circumstances in order to adapt to the game. We believe deeply in what we do, in our players, and so we are confident that we will go through to the next phase. We know that Celtic feel the same too.

Weekend result
No weekend fixture

• Benfica have not played a Liga game since 2 September, when goals from Óscar Cardozo (51 89) and Rodrigo (56) earned them a 3-0 home win against CD Nacional.

Team news
Benfica will be without the suspended Luisão and Maxi Pereira, while midfielder Carlos Martins will miss the game through injury. Defender Luisinho has not made the journey to Scotland.

Match fact
The clubs first met in 1969/70 when it took a coin toss to decide their European Champion Clubs' Cup second round tie. Goals from Tommy Gemmell, Willie Wallace and Harry Hood gave Celtic a 3-0 first-leg win in Glasgow, before Benfica responded with an identical victory in Lisbon thanks to Eusébio, Jaime Graça and Diamantino. Celtic went on to the final where they lost 2-1 to Feyenoord.

Last updated: 27/11/12 3.17CET

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http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/season=2013/matches/round=2000347/match=2009493/prematch/preview/index.html#heady+days+celtic+ahead+benfica+test

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