Neil Lennon says Celtic have made a ‘real statement’ in qualifying for the Europa League group stage after the disappointment of losing in the Champions League.
Romanian side Cluj dumped the Hoops from the top-tier competition earlier this month but Celtic easily progressed into the Europa League after a 6-1 aggregate win over Swedish champions AIK. Lennon’s side were 4-1 winners in Stockholm on Thursday, with James Forrest, Christopher Jullien and Lewis Morgan – both netting their first Celtic goals – all on the mark alongside an own goal.
“We’re really excited,” said Lennon. “It’s great to be back in a group stage in Europe. Unfortunately it’s not the big one, but it’s still very good. The players have made a real statement.” Playmaker Ryan Christie came in for special praise from his manager after another impressive showing. “Our front four were marvellous, brilliant to watch,” said Lennon.
“Ryan is playing brilliantly. There’s a lot of talk about other players in the country but he’s up there with anybody. His performance, on and off the ball, was outstanding. He can be as good as he wants to be.” The win in Sweden wasn’t carefree.
Defender Kristoffer Ajer is ‘very doubtful’ for Sunday’s Glasgow derby at Ibrox, but striker Odsonne Edouard should be fine to face Rangers. “Odsonne just came off with a bit of cramp,” Lennon told BBC Sport. “It’s not a hamstring thankfully, he’s walking about. He should be fine for Sunday.
Ajer has a groin strain, so he is very doubtful.” Celtic are 3.10 to win at Ibrox, with Rangers favourites at 2.38 and the draw 3.30.