Friday, September 7, 2012

High hopes of Celtic after European draw

Celtic have been gifted a chance to make the knock-out stage of this season’s Champions League after being drawn in a group they are capable of overcoming. Neil Lennon’s side will fancy their chances against Benfica and Spartak Moscow, although a scalp over Barcelona may be beyond them.

Nevertheless, Group G looks like it will go down to the wire and Celtic, who beat Helsingborgs 4-0 on aggregate in the play-off round, are in with a chance of progressing to the latter stages.

Lennon, who manages Celtic in the Champions League for the first time, knows his side are rivals for second place with Barcelona expected to run away with the group.

“I think Benfica will be strong, I think Moscow will be strong. They have got financial clout behind them but anything can happen in the group stages, particularly if we can start the group well and maximise the home advantage,” Lennon outlined in a recent press conference.

Celtic fans may be disappointed they drew arguably the best team in the world in Barcelona, yet this match may come to their favour, and their Champions league odds actually shifted upon news of the draw.

For with Barca expected to take maximum points from the group stage every year, Celtic can be comfortable in the knowledge their second-place rivals are unlikely to nick any extra points.

This puts serious importance on the games against Moscow and Benfica, yet if Celtic can take three points off each of their home games then anything is possible in the return legs. The Glasgow club may have a poor record away in Europe but will take solace in their 2-0 victory in Helsingborgs last month.

The Champions League is more than a fun few days out for Celtic fans and Lennon is more than aware of this as he prepares to advance from a group stage that could have been a whole lot tougher.

Elsewhere, Premier League champions Manchester City were dealt another tough draw, being placed in a all-champions group with Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax.

The draw meant that their city rivals Manchester United moved ahead of them in the betting  , with the Red Devils set to take on Sporting Braga, Galatasaray and CFR Cluj

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