/ Soccer

No pressure on Celtic after tough Champions League draw, says Neil Lennon

Updated: Friday, 30 Aug 2013 08:33 | Comments

Neil Lennon: 'We could get no points, we could ten, you just never know'
Neil Lennon: 'We could get no points, we could ten, you just never know'

Video

Neil Lennon insists there is no pressure on Celtic following yesterday's Champions League draw which saw them pitched alongside Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax.

The Hoops reached the lucrative group stages of the competition for the second successive season in dramatic style on Wednesday night when they beat Shakhter Karagandy 3-0 to knock the Kazakhstan champions out of the play-offs 3-2 on aggregate.

Their reward was to be drawn against three of the biggest names in European football in what Lennon described as the "best and worst" of groups.

The Scottish champions reached the last-16 of the competition last season, beating Barcelona 2-1 at Parkhead on the way, but the Celtic boss does not believe that means a repeat should be expected.

"I said at the beginning of the tournament it would be very difficult to emulate what we did last year," he said. "I think qualifying for the group stages was huge for us.

"If we can get anything else out of it, then so be it. You just never know with this bunch of players what they are going to bring - we could get no points, we could ten, you just never know.

"But the pressure is off in terms of I don't think anyone really has huge expectations on us to qualify, although some of our fans who set very high standards will be expecting that."

"We're going to see our old friends Barcelona again" - Neil Lennon

Lennon acknowledged the status of the Hoops' opponents but is looking forward to six memorable group games.

"It's obviously very exciting," said the former Celtic skipper.

"In terms of glamour, you couldn't have asked for anything more and in terms of difficulty you couldn't have asked for anything more.

"Ajax were with Dortmund and Man City last year and came third in the group. Milan have been in transition but are coming on strong again.

"They beat a very good PSV (Eindhoven) team to qualify so pedigree is unquestionable. And we're going to see our old friends Barcelona again.

"The experience of last year will stand the players in good stead."

CELTIC'S EUROPEAN OPPONENTS

BARCELONA

Manager: Gerardo Martino

Star man: Lionel Messi

How they qualified: Spanish champions

The lowdown: Bolstered by £50million summer signing Neymar, Barca are again the team to fear. They unexpectedly fell short last season - losing to Celtic along the way - and will be out to regain their crown under new boss Martino.

AC MILAN

Manager: Massimiliano Allegri

Star man: Mario Balotelli

How they qualified: Third place, Italy

The lowdown: As seven-times European champions, Milan boast plenty of pedigree in the Champions League. Their current squad does not pack the punch of the recent past, however, and Allegri is under pressure after last season's under-achievement.

AJAX

Manager: Frank de Boer

Star man: Christian Poulsen

How they qualified: Dutch champions

The lowdown: Ajax were expected to be the makeweights in Manchester City's group last season but proved no such thing, although they failed to make the knockout stages. They retain the core values that have made them phenomenally successful over the years and will be no pushover.

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use