Neil Lennon’s Celtic have a tough task ahead of them to qualify for the knock-out stages of this season’s Champions League, after drawing their opening match 0-0 with Benfica this week.
Celtic Park was the scene of jubilation just three weeks ago, as the Scottish champions qualified for their first European Cup campaign in three years, defeating a despondent Helsingborg.
Maybe it was seen as ‘job done’ then, with Champions League qualification top priority, yet as soon as Wednesday’s game kicked off suddenly a new challenge arose: escaping the group stage.
Fan expectation was high, yet Lennon’s men could not force any momentum into the game while Benfica were happy to sit back.
The betting tips for football had suggested that the key to Champions League progression from the group stages is to win your home games and hope to pinch a point on the road.
Benfica have certainly got their campaign off to a good start with this point earned in Glasgow. Brazilian goalkeeper, Artur, was barely tested in the opening froes and, as the game went on, the Portuguese side looked increasingly comfortable in the middle of the park.
Neither team deserved to win, yet Lennon will still be disappointed about the result. Celtic are notoriously bad on the road in Europe and so home form is critical in escaping a difficult group that also incudes Barcelona and Spartak Moscow – two treacherous away trips.
Their fans will not be expecting much from the Nou Camp and so they will have to find three points in either Moscow or Lisbon. Celtic don’t yet need a miracle to qualify from this group but they do need to eke out a win on the road.
They travel to Moscow next to take on a Spartak side determined to take second place in Group G, and Lennon must instruct his team to go for it if they are to progress in the Champions League this season.
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