Lennon to ignore Barca result

PA Sport
Neil Lennon insists Celtic still have a 'great chance of qualifying' for the knockout stage
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Neil Lennon insists Celtic still have a 'great chance of qualifying' for the knockout stage

Neil Lennon will ignore how Barcelona approach their final Group G game against Benfica to concentrate on Celtic maximising their Champions League last-16 chances against Spartak Moscow.

After losing 2-1 against Benfica in Lisbon on Tuesday night, the Hoops will only go through to the knockout stages if, in their home game against the Russian club, they better the Portuguese side's result in the Nou Camp.

The Catalan giants qualified as group winners with a 3-0 win at Spartak and there will be speculation around how seriously Barca will take their last fixture. However, Lennon said: "I can't comment on other teams, other teams' line-ups and other managers, they have to do the best for their own clubs."

He added: "I'm only focusing on the Spartak game, I won't even look at the other result until after the 90 minutes. The Benfica match was probably our most disappointing performance over the five games but we are at home in the last game which is a big boost for us and anything can happen.

"The squad didn't cost a lot of money to put together and they have grown as the competition has gone on. We are making progress and we still have a great chance of qualifying."

Barca's win in Russia consigned Spartak to bottom spot and ensured that Celtic, at least, will feature in the Europa League. Asked if that meant the pressure was off, the former Celtic skipper said: "No. It is great to have European football for the new year but we want to progress in the Champions League and we will do everything we can to do that."

The Northern Irishman will look carefully at his fatigued squad over the next couple of weeks which will be weakened by the absence of skipper Scott Brown who is set to undergo surgery on a hip injury which could keep him out for 10 weeks.

Lennon revealed that utility player Charlie Mulgrew was struggling due to the sheer amount of football he has played this season, while midfielder Victor Wanyama will miss the Spartak game after he picked up a second-half yellow card against Benfica.

"We have a few players coming up to speed like Miku and Lassad," Lennon said. "We are hoping Emilio Izaguirre (hamstring) will be fit in a week or two and Thomas Rogne (calf) should be fit pretty soon. The squad is stretched but with these players coming back it will be bolstered in the coming games."

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