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Strachan hopes Celtic will stand tall

Gordon Strachan hopes the confidence among his players can help Celtic FC prevail in a match SL Benfica coach José Antonio Camacho is billing a "man's game".

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan ©Getty Images

Having emerged victorious when he came up against José Antonio Camacho during his playing days, Celtic FC manager Gordon Strachan hopes that the growing confidence among his squad can see off the challenge of SL Benfica – in a match that Camacho is billing as a "man's game".

Strachan was a member of the Aberdeen FC team that shocked a Real Madrid CF side including Camacho to lift the 1983 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, although the Spaniard claimed a measure of revenge a fortnight ago when Óscar Cardozo's goal three minutes from time gave Benfica a 1-0 victory in Lisbon. Yet, in the wake of their 2-1 Scottish Premier League success against Kilmarnock FC at the weekend, Strachan says there is an "air of confidence" at Celtic Park going into a match that both sides must win to maintain a realistic chance of progress from Group D. "We are playing good football which is pleasing on the eye and winning most of the time," said the manager. "We want to win, that's the priority. A win for us and [AC] Milan [who face FC Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine] would be perfect."

Nakamura doubt
The form of Scott McDonald is one cause for optimism, the 24-year-old Australian international forward having taken his tally for the season to 13 with both goals against Kilmarnock. With preferred strike partner Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink fit again after a hamstring injury, and midfielder Aiden McGeady showing a return to sparkling form, Strachan has options to cover the likely absence of Shunsuke Nakamura. The likelihood of the playmaker overcoming a knee injury is "not great" according to his manager. "It would be different if 'Naka' was playing inspirational football and everyone else was below their form, but at the moment I have a lot of forward-thinking players who are playing well."

'European legends'
With Benfica forward Nuno Gomes available again after a thigh injury, Strachan admits that he has prepared his side to cope with two possible formations from the visitors. "Benfica played with two strikers in Lisbon and when they came here last season they had one up front, so we have to prepare the guys to deal with two different systems," said Strachan. "What they do know is that they're playing against a good side in Benfica and one of the legendary clubs of European football."

Physical contest
For his part, Camacho refuses to be drawn on whether Nuno Gomes will feature from the start, and is hoping that left-back Leó will shake off a muscle strain sustained in Saturday's 2-1 Portuguese Liga triumph at FC Paços de Ferreira – Konstantinos Katsouranis scored the late winner. The former Madrid coach expects a physical contest yet does not accept the theory that victory is essential.

'Man's game'
"We both want the three points but it won't be decisive," said Camacho. "It's going to be a tough game for Benfica. Celtic are very strong physically and we will have to match them. It's going to be a hard game, a man's game, and we will play to win."