Benfica v Celtic: We haven’t achieved anything yet, warns Neil Lennon
Benfica v Celtic: Neil Lennon urges the Hoops to stay grounded ahead of potentially historic night at the Stadium of Light
Neil Lennon has urged Celtic to remain grounded ahead of their Benfica clash on Tuesday night, insisting the Hoops “haven’t achieved anything yet”.
The SPL champions were 2-1 winners against Barcelona in their last Champions League outing to boos their hopes of qualification to the knockout stage for the first time in five years.
Celtic can book their place in the last 16 with victory in Portugal, with members of their European Cup team which lifted the trophy in Lisbon in 1967 making the trip to the Stadium of Light.
But Lennon, who is chasing his 100th win as Celtic manager, urged the players to not get swept away by the emotion of the occasion and stay focused on taking the final step towards qualification.
“I don’t buy into all that [prospects of lifting the trophy]. It’s for the fans, all that sort of stuff. It will have no relevance come kick-off time,” said Lennon.
“I want the players to embrace the history. It’s nice having the Lions on the trip because they are greats – but we have to focus on our own job. The expectation level has gone from down there to up there in no time.
“I want to temper that and water it down by saying, ‘Listen, we haven’t achieved anything yet’.
“Barcelona was a great night but it has gone now. It’s one of those where you’re almost there but you can’t quite reach it. That’s the real danger when you’re in that anxious sort of zone.”
Benfica v Celtic: Pre-match facts
• Celtic can clinch their place in the Champions League knockout phase for the third time when they return to Lisbon, the city that hosted their 1967 European Champion Clubs’ Cup final triumph.
• The clubs first met in 1969-70 when a coin toss decided their European Cup second round tie. Tommy Gemmell, Willie Wallace and Harry Hood gave Celtic a 3-0 first-leg win but Benfica responded with an identical victory in Lisbon thanks to Eusebio, Jaime Graça and Diamantino.
• The clubs have also posted identical home results in their Champions League meetings. In the 2006-07 group stage Celtic won 3-0 through efforts from Kenny Miller (2) and Stephen Pearson, while Benfica reversed the score in Lisbon with Gary Caldwell’s own goal and strikes from Nuno Gomes and Andrei Karyaka.
• Celtic’s overall away record against Portuguese sides is W2 D1 L7. Their last victory in Portugal was a 1-0 success at Boavista in the 2003 Uefa Cup semi-final, Henrik Larsson the scorer, although they lost the subsequent final to another Portuguese club, Porto.