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Lennon: Celtic can overturn Shakhter lead

Celtic FC may trail FC Shakhter Karagandy 2-0 but they have a history of recovering such deficits and manager Neil Lennon believes he knows the visitors' "deficiencies".

Neil Lennon is in bullish mood
Neil Lennon is in bullish mood ©Getty Images

Less than a year after their memorable defeat of FC Barcelona helped earn a second UEFA Champions League knockout campaign, Celtic FC have a huge task on their hands to return to the group stage.

FC Shakhter Karagandy beat Celtic 2-0 in Astana last Tuesday to move to within an ace of becoming the first team from Kazakhstan to reach the competition proper. However, the Scottish champions are a formidable team at home; indeed on three out of four occasions they have lost a European first leg 2-0 away they have ended up going through on aggregate.

"We know we have to win the game by three goals,” manager Neil Lennon said. "If we concede one we need to score four. If we concede two, according to their manager, then we'll score five. I think their confidence is very dangerous and it can always come back to bite you. This is a two-game tie."

Lennon, who believes Celtic "were the better team" in the first leg, added: "There are deficiencies in the way Shakhter play, we exposed that in the first game but couldn't take advantage of it. So what we have to do is take advantage of the opportunities we create.

"I have plenty of respect for Shakhter," continued Lennon, who is missing midfielder Beram Kayal due to a groin injury but expects Giorgos Samaras, Virgil van Dijk, Anthony Stokes, Derk Boerrigter and James Forrest to be fit. "They have negotiated BATE Borisov and the Albanian champions, and they have a two-goal lead over us. They play with a lot of heart, great spirit and great organisation, and they have certain players of a high calibre.

"Whether Shakhter are motivated for this game or not is irrelevant to me. We come up against motivated teams every week here at Celtic Park, teams who want to beat the champions and best team. It'll be nothing new for our players to come up against a motivated team, because my team will be motivated as well."

As Lennon suggested, Shakhter coach Viktor Kumykov stated: "We are quite confident before this game. It won't be a disaster for us if we don't qualify for the Champions League stage and go to the Europa League because in football, it is sometimes better to develop in stages."

Referring to the first leg, Kumykov added: "What really matters is on the football pitch, the game and the final score. We scored twice in the first leg and Celtic failed to score; that's what really matters."