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Thursday 19 April 2018

Lennon: onus on Ajax to get the points

Pressure on hosts but Celtic boss is aiming for point in Amsterdam

Celtic player Giorgios Samaras (R) chases the ball during a training session. Picture: REUTERS/Michel Kooren
Celtic player Giorgios Samaras (R) chases the ball during a training session. Picture: REUTERS/Michel Kooren

Neil Lennon insists the pressure is on Ajax ahead of tonight's Champions League clash with Celtic in the Amsterdam Arena.

The Hoops' 2-1 victory over the Dutch champions last month gave Celtic their first three points of the campaign and sent Frank De Boer's side bottom of Group H with one point from three games.

The Parkhead manager believes that even a draw will keep his side in the hunt for a qualification place ahead of the visit of AC Milan, two points in front of the Scottish champions as they prepare to play leaders Barcelona, later in the month.

"It is a pressure game for Ajax," said Lennon.

"We can come here and, not be relaxed, but have a real go at the game.

"If we are to progress we have to pick something up away but we don't need to win.

"If we can get a point and beat Milan at home that gives us seven points and gives us a real chance of qualifying.

"I think it was important that we got some points on the board against Ajax in the last game.

"But we are under no illusions as to how difficult this will be.

"Ajax were very unfortunate not to beat Milan here in match day two.

 

CONFIDENT

"I think the Champions League inspires players and gets the best out of them.

"I hope that is the case for our players tonight."

De Boer, however, remains confident, following his side's performance in Glasgow, that they will get their qualification hopes back on track with a victory.

"If you look at that match we had chances and a lot of good moments," he said.

"Celtic didn't create any chances but scored twice and won the game.

"Celtic can be confident, they have had some good results in the last year, (beating) Barcelona for example, so they can be confident.

"But I saw good things from my side so I also have confidence in my team that we can get three points here and then we are one point ahead (of Celtic).

"It is a crucial game for us. For them, a draw is maybe enough so they can wait more than they did in Glasgow.

"We have to force the game but we are in good shape to create chances and get the three points."

But Lennon, who expects Georgios Samaras, Kris Commons and Mikael Lustig to be fit, tried to dampen down expectations. "We always knew that the double-header against Ajax would be pivotal and it has proved to be the case," he said.

"You don't know what is round the corner but what I would say is that on their day Ajax are as good as Barcelona and Milan.

"They caused us as many problems as both those teams and I think it will be the same (tonight).

Lennon admits in-form keeper Fraser Forster will again be crucial to his side's chances and expects the big Geordie to gain his first England cap in one of the forthcoming friendlies against Chile and Germany.

Roy Hodgson's first-choice keeper Joe Hart has been dropped at Manchester City while possible replacement John Ruddy let in seven goals for Norwich against City at the weekend.

 

OPPORTUNITY

The former Celtic skipper said: "Regardless of how Fraser plays, I think he has a good opportunity of playing (for England) anyway. He has been in fantastic form for the past two seasons.

"Roy Hodgson has already indicated that he might feature in some of the upcoming games. Whether he does or not, that's up to him but if he did get the chance he is ready for it. He has shown great consistency at this level."

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