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Friday 21 September 2018

Derk in to make Berks of AC

Lennon hoping to use Boerrigter's pace to smash Italian defence

Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Picture credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Picture credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

NEIL LENNON is preparing to unleash Derk Boerrigter on AC Milan tonight.

The Dutchman has started just four matches since his summer move from Ajax, but made a big impact as a substitute against Aberdeen on Saturday, scoring his first goal in the 3-1 win.

With the exception of Virgil van Dijk in defence, Lennon's summer signings have failed to make an impact on the side, but with a win needed tonight, the Celtic boss has dropped some heavy hints that Boerrigter will start.

"I'm going to try to go with a bit of pace if I can," the Hoops boss revealed. "Boerrigter is fit, so he will have a good chance of starting. I hope he will give us a different dimension.

"I am toying with playing Samaras through the middle. Anthony Stokes trained today, so he's back in the squad.

"Some of the players can find it hard to adapt to British football straight away. I wouldn't say it's easier, but some players seem more comfortable in European games than in the SPFL.

"Perhaps European football suits Derk better. It's a little bit more technical and tactical and he is used to that."

Lennon added: "Milan might not know much about Derk, although they may know of him from his Ajax days. But if he can be on song, he can be a threat for us. There's no question about that. The goal on Saturday will have done his confidence the world of good. It's been frustrating for him because he hasn't had any concerted game time at all. We are hoping he now stays injury-free."

Tonight's match is do-or-die for Celtic's Champions League hopes with even the most fanatical of supporters knowing that picking up anything from matchday six in the Nou Camp is unlikely.

Disarray

A win for Celtic would put them ahead of AC Milan going into the last pair of matches, with the Italian side in disarray after just three wins in Serie A and they languish in 13th place a massive 20 points behind leaders Juventus.

Lennon knows all about the demands and magic of the Champions League and is confident that his players are ready to produce another memorable display.

"The cause for optimism is that we are at home," he added. "Our home form is very good. We have played very well against Barcelona, we beat Ajax, and that gives me a lot of encouragement for this game.

"The fact that it's probably win or bust for us in terms of the competition may give the players that extra oomph going into the game.

"I don't think I'm feeling pressure at all. I will try to transform that to the players as well.

"I don't want any nerves or anxiety, even though it's a natural state to be in. You get the tension before games like this but it's a nice tension, it's not an anxious one.

"We've got nothing to lose and everything to gain."

Lennon also struck a note of caution, saying that despite Milan's run of poor results he does not believe it is necessarily the ideal time to play the Rossoneri.

"They could be a wounded animal and that's always a dangerous proposition, no matter who you face," said Lennon.

"They'll have their pride. They have some world-class players, players who are class acts and who have been at the top level of the game for a concerted period of time.

"If anyone thinks that we are underestimating them and think it's a really good time and think it's going to be a comfortable home win, they'll have to think again."

Meanwhile, Lennon has no concerns over the mindset of Kris Commons, after it was reported the midfielder's home was burgled.

He said: "It can be traumatic, but Kris being the strong-minded individual that he is has brushed it off.

"It's not a nice thing for him or his family to have to suffer, but looking at him today and speaking to him yesterday, his total focus now is on the game."

* Celtic's U19 side, featuring Irish international defender Eoghan O'Connell, face AC Milan at 3pm today with the game shown live on Eurosport.

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