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Celitc manager Neil Lennon hoping Hoops can shake off defeat ahead of Champions League opener

Updated: Wednesday, 19 Sep 2012 16:09 | Comments

Celtic make a long overdue return to the Champions League group stage
Celtic make a long overdue return to the Champions League group stage

Neil Lennon is hoping his Celtic side have shrugged off the effects of their shock weekend loss to St Johnstone for his side's Champions League Group G opener against Benfica at Parkhead..

The Hoops boss was raging after the 2-1 defeat at McDiarmid Park left his side with just two Clydesdale Bank Premier League wins in their first five games.

Lennon knows his team will have to improve markedly against the Portuguese club if they want to get off to a good start in a section which also includes Barcelona and Spartak Moscow.

The former Celtic skipper said: "The sign of a good team is who you come back from a defeat and I am looking for a reaction.

"They know that the level of performance (in Perth) was not acceptable, I don't want to see that again.

"They are entitled to a day off, a bad game but in the main I've been pretty pleased with the contributions this season," Lennon added.

"They know that the level of performance (in Perth) was not acceptable, I don't want to see that again" - Neil Lennon

"There shouldn't be any nerves, this is a competition that the players look forward to playing in, to challenge themselves against the best clubs in Europe and Benfica certainly come into that category.

"What I want to see is the team playing as well as they can. I want to see them express themselves, play the football that they know they are capable of and hopefully improve on Saturday's performance."

Midfielder Kris Commons does not believe the difficulty of the task that lies ahead means the pressure to succeed is any less.

"We are not there to make up the numbers and let teams beat us willy nilly," said the former Derby and Nottingham Forest player, one of Celtic's best performers in the early part of the season.

"We are looking to win every single game and that probably includes Barcelona away.

"We've got to aim high and give a good account of ourselves.

"We will be going out to win the game but we know it will be tough, and against a team probably like no opposition that we have met this year.

"But I like playing under pressure. I like when people expect me to do well.

"It drives me on knowing I have to perform. The games that you can let pass you by you tend to (let pass you by).

"We are in it for a reason and want to continue our good form in Europe and progress.

"I would like to see us to still be in Europe in the new year, to get that third place and qualify for the Europa League but personally I want to get to the next stage and qualify for the knockout stages (of the Champions League)."

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