Celtic vs Rennes - No let up from Celtic despite Europa League qualification, insists Neil Lennon

Posted Thursday, November 28, 2019 by PA

Celtic vs Rennes - No let up from Celtic despite Europa League qualification, insists Neil Lennon

Celtic boss Neil Lennon admits having already secured Europa League qualification feels “weird” but is demanding standards remain high against Rennes on Thursday night.

The Hoops play their penultimate Group E fixture at Parkhead with 10 points from four games, top of the section and already in the hat for the last-32 draw.

The Celtic boss is enjoying the absence of a pressurised ‘must-win’ scenario but is looking to extend his side’s eight-game winning run.

“Yes, it’s sort of weird,” said, Lennon, who confirmed French midfielder Olivier Ntcham will start the game.

“I’ve not really been in this position before but we are still driven.

“I don’t want them to come off it at the minute, I want them to stay on the edge and on the level they have been playing at for the last six to eight weeks.

“We go into the game with confidence but no complacency.

“Rennes are dangerous, good pace in the team and counter attack well and if they come and play with a freedom, they could be in for a difficult night.

“We have only made 10 points in a European group before and this is an opportunity to better that.

“If we can win the group it may give you a favourable draw.

“That would be another milestone for this group and it is a big incentive.”

Lennon, speaking after the club’s AGM, was reluctant to get drawn into an extensive conversation about Celtic’s decision to close part of the section of the stadium which hosts the club’s ultras, the Green Brigade.

The Parkhead board took the decision due to one too many fines by UEFA, the most recent one costing the club £12,900 after fans displayed an “illicit banner” and sang obscene chants during their Europa League game at home to Lazio last month.

However, the Northern Irishman admits those fans who are banned will be missed.

He said: “It’s not ideal but you have to think of the health and safety of the supporters and you also have to follow the rules and regulations of the UEFA competition.

“It is a club decision and we feel it is a right decision. I am not going to dwell on it.

“We will miss those fans because they bring so much to the stadium and we hope they come back pretty soon.”

Asked about making a move in January for Spurs midfielder Victor Wanyama, who played under Lennon in his first spell in charge at Celtic, Lennon said: “I don’t know where the speculation is coming from and that’s what it is, speculation.

“If a player like Wanyama was to become available and that is the first thing we have to ask because there is a new manager at Spurs and we don’t know how Jose Mourinho will see Victor’s role at the club.

“There is affordability and does the player want to come?

“We have not looked at any of that so this is just speculation and I am very well stocked in midfield and my midfield is performing superbly at the minute.”

Julien Stephan is hoping his Rennes side rise to the occasion in a “cathedral of football”.

Rennes arrived in Glasgow on the back of a 2-1 defeat away to Dijon in Ligue 1 at the weekend and, although they have no chance of reaching the knockout stages of the Europa League, boss Stephan is hoping a packed Celtic Park will inspire his players.

He said: “After the result of the weekend there is disappointment, obviously, but this is the Europa League, it is really important for us and we want to show what we can do.

“We also want to perform very well because we are playing in what I call a cathedral of football.

“It is a very special place to play so you want to play your best football if possible.

“It is all about the atmosphere. You can feel when you play here that there is a very strong link between the supporters and the club.

“We are also playing for the 2,500 supporters who have made the journey to support us, for pride too and to gain experience as we have a young squad.

“We know Celtic are looking to win the group to get a slightly easier draw after that.

“We know they will play the British style which is 100 per cent and we will try to respond to this.”

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