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Celtic and Ajax have no margin for error

Celtic FC and AFC Ajax can stay in sight of FC Barcelona and AC Milan atop Group H with a first win on Tuesday but defeat in Glasgow could end their last-16 hopes.

Celtic and Ajax have no margin for error
Celtic and Ajax have no margin for error ©UEFA.com

Neither Celtic FC nor AFC Ajax have won yet in UEFA Champions League Group H but Tuesday's meeting in Glasgow gives them a chance to get in touch with FC Barcelona and AC Milan at the top.

Celtic are a point adrift of Ajax having lost twice, but while manager Neil Lennon has great respect for the visitors' traditions, he is ready for his team to "impose themselves". That task is made more difficult by the absence of Scott Brown and Kris Commons through suspension and injury, though it is Giorgios Samaras that Frank de Boer has identified as their danger man. The Dutch title holders, he stressed, cannot afford to lose.

Neil Lennon, manager
I watched [Ajax at FC Twente] on Saturday night and they came on very strong in the second half. They probably deserved to get something out of the game. They're going to give us problems, they're going to move the ball.

But we're ready, we're looking forward to it. We know what's at stake. But the fact that we're at home gives us a slight heads-up. It's not [a must-win game], it's a must-not-get-beat. I'm confident with this team that we can perform away from home as well. Winning the game would put us in a very good position within the group. I think losing the game will probably end our aspirations of trying to qualify.

Ajax don't change the way they play in terms of formation, they do their personnel. They have players that are flexible, that can play in different positions. They're very confident, they have great belief in what they're trying to do. And Frank [de Boer] has great belief in his players. They never panic, they keep playing the same way.

They are a typical Ajax team I suppose. It's a philosophy they've had for a long, long time. Look at the personnel they have in the background: [Marc] Overmars, [Edwin] van der Sar, Dennis Bergkamp, Ronald de Boer as well. They have a lot of experience and quality as players and they pass that on to the young players

I hope [to have more possession] but Ajax keep the ball very well. We should have a fair share of the ball tomorrow night. If it's 0-0 and we score in the 94th minute, I'll be happy with that. I want to get a foothold on the game early, and not let Ajax take the tempo or take the flow of the game. We're at home and we have to impose ourselves and play the way we want to play.

Weekend result
Saturday: Hibernian FC 1-1 Celtic FC (Heffernan 18; Forrest 77)
Forster; Fisher, Ambrose, Van Dijk, Mulgrew; Commons (Forrest 28), Brown, Kayal (Ledley 68), Samaras; Stokes, Pukki (Amido 86).

• Celtic came from behind to extend their unbeaten league run to 12 matches, a sequence dating back to last term, and maintain their record of having scored in every Premiership game this season. Darnell Fisher, 19, made his first-team debut at right-back in place of the injured Mikael Lustig. Joe Ledley made his return from injury as a substitute.

Team news
Commons limped off midway through the first half on Saturday with a suspected hamstring strain and will miss out. Brown is suspended, while Adam Matthews (shoulder) and Derk Boerrigter (ankle) are also unavailable. Lustig (hip) and Emilio Izaguirre (virus) could be fit

Frank de Boer, coach
It's obviously always nice to win and to lose is the worse option, but a draw could be enough because then we play Celtic at the Amsterdam ArenA. If we win, it could be very difficult for Celtic to get close to second place and if we lose, Celtic take a great advantage. We're playing for second place.

The players have to enjoy this kind of atmosphere [at Celtic Park]. When you're young, you want to play in stadiums like this, in that kind of atmosphere. You have to prepare yourself to perform better. If you play sub-standard then maybe you're not good enough to play at this level. You can be nervous when the referee kicks off, but you have to get rid of your nerves and enjoy the great stadium.

[As a player with Rangers FC], I remember the great atmosphere and rivalry between the clubs. I played against [Henrik] Larsson – he was a pain in the backside. I still remember the atmosphere, the people shouting at you. For me, it was a great adventure. But I hope luck is on my side. We're getting better every match and the results will soon follow if we keep on playing well like that. There's a great chance it'll come tomorrow.

Celtic are favourites. The level between both clubs is pretty even but they're playing at home with the fans behind them. Samaras is a key player with his height and strength. If they can't build from the back, the first ball will be for Samaras and then they'll fight for the second phase. He's so strong, it's almost impossible to win the first ball, the header from Samaras. You have to be very good to win the second.

Weekend result
Saturday: FC Twente 1-1 AFC Ajax (Castaignos 22; Sigthórsson 81)
Cillessen; Van Rhijn (Schöne 71), Veltman, Denswil, Boilesen; De Jong, Blind, Serero; Andersen (De Sa 81), Sigthórsson (Hoesen 87), Fischer.

• Kolbeinn Sigthórsson's third goal in as many appearances for club and country was not enough to earn Ajax a first win in five Eredivisie away games this term.

Team news
Niklas Moisander, an absentee at the weekend, faces a late fitness test on a knee complaint and De Boer says his experience is "very important". Ricardo van Rhijn has a niggle, too, so Ajax have travelled with 19 players. Lerin Duarte (ankle), Ruben Ligeon (toe) and Bojan Krkić (hamstring) are not among them.

Match fact
• Celtic got the better of Ajax when the clubs last met in the 2000/01 third qualifying round. Martin O'Neill's Celtic won the first leg 3-1 in Amsterdam, with Bobby Petta (7) and Didier Agathe (19) scoring early and Chris Sutton (55) adding a third after Shota Arveladze (40) had pulled a goal back.

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