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Celtic manager Neil Lennon ready for Milan challenge

Updated: Wednesday, 18 Sep 2013 20:05 | Comments

Celtic train at the San Siro Stadium ahead of tonight's match
Celtic train at the San Siro Stadium ahead of tonight's match

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Neil Lennon admits feeling "fantastic" as Celtic prepare to open their Champions League Group H campaign against AC Milan at the San Siro (Live on RTÉ Two and 2fm's Game On from 7.30pm).

The Hoops reached the last 16 of the competition last year, beating Barcelona on the way before losing to Juventus, and qualified for the group stages again this season after three nervy qualifying rounds.

Looking forward to the first fixture in a section that also contains Barca and Dutch side Ajax, the Celtic boss said: "It feels fantastic.

"Everything we have worked on since we were eliminated from the competition in February by Juventus has been geared for the start tonight.

"I am very happy with the way the players dealt with the huge pressure they were under in the qualification games and now it is a different type of pressure.

"The expectation level isn't so high but we set new challenges for the players.

"Can they emulate what they did last year?

"It is going to be hugely difficult we know, but the experience they gained last year will hopefully stand them in good stead going into this campaign."

Lennon admits he is struggling to find sympathy for AC Milan head coach Massimiliano Allegri who bemoaned a long list absentees with Kaka, captain Riccardo Montolivo and fellow midfielder Andrea Poli all set to miss the visit of the Scottish champions.

Forwards Stephan El Shaarawy and Giampaolo Pazzini are also out along with Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio, Matias Silvestre and Daniele Bonera.

Giampaolo Pazzini scores against Catania

Lennon, who revealed midfielder Joe Ledley was a "major doubt" with a groin injury and who will also be without James Forrest and Beram Kayal, said: "It is very unfortunate for him that these injuries have come all at the one time and it is not an ideal situation for him.

"But I am sure as the season and the campaign progresses Milan as always will get better and stronger.

"I can't look too much into Milan's problem I have to concentrate in my own.

"The fact that he can maybe bring (Alessandro) Matri into the team, he cost a lot of money, money that myself or my board of directors can only dream of paying for players, so I can't really offer up a lot of sympathy at this stage for him."

Live television coverage of AC Milan v Celtic from 19.30 on Wednesday 18 September on RTÉ Two and RTE.ie (RoI only). Live radio coverage on Game On on RTÉ 2fm and RTÉ.ie (RoI only) from 7pm.

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