The mere mention of Lisbon is enough to get everyone connected with Celtic FC excited. After all, this is the city where they made history on 25 May 1967, when Jock Stein's side became the first British team to lift the European Champion Clubs' Cup following a 2-1 victory against FC Internazionale Milano at the Estádio Nacional.
Celtic supporters need little excuse to make a pilgrimage to the scene of their greatest triumph and after their four-year absence from the group stage, the presence of SL Benfica alongside FC Barcelona and FC Spartak Moskva in Group G will be viewed by the fans as an added bonus to being back among Europe's elite.
What they can achieve in this season's competition, Celtic's 50th European campaign, is another matter altogether. As fourth seeds, Neil Lennon's side are realistically competing for third place; anything more would be seen as punching above their weight.
Captain Scott Brown and striker Giorgos Samaras are the only survivors from Celtic's last outing in the tournament, so Lennon's newly assembled team, featuring emerging talents like winger James Forrest, will have to hit the ground running when they host Benfica on Wednesday.
Traditionally, Celtic Park has been something of a fortress on UEFA Champions League nights, with the Glasgow outfit suffering just two defeats in 18 group stage matches. Having featured in many of them, Lennon and his assistant Johan Mjallby know only too well how much the crowd can influence these occasions. If Lennon can impart that knowledge and harness it to an increasing sure-footedness away from home, Celtic could emerge as a surprise package.
However, 45 years after the club's finest hour-and-a-half, Celtic are relieved to be restored to Europe's top table surrounded by old friends such as Eusébio's Benfica. The Eagles icon has painful memories of playing at Celtic Park, Benfica having lost 3-0 in 1969. They went out of the European Cup on the toss of a coin after the first leg had finished with the same scoreline. A similar rub of the green would suit Lennon nicely next week.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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