Lisbon Lion believes Celtic can win Europa League

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LISBON Lion Jim Craig believes Celtic are capable of winning the Europa League this season.

The Hoops take on old foes Inter Milan in the first-leg of their eagerly-awaited last-32 tie at Parkhead on Thursday night.

Craig believes success in the Europa League is "achievable". Picture: SNS

Craig believes success in the Europa League is "achievable". Picture: SNS

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Craig was in the Celtic team which famously beat the Italian outfit in the 1967 European Cup final in Lisbon to become the first British team to win the trophy.

Speaking on behalf of Magners - main sponsor of Celtic - at the Drygate Brewery in Glasgow, the former full-back recognised the difficulty the current Celtic team would have in winning Europe’s top club tournament but is confident that the Europa League is within its grasp.

He told Press Association Sport: “It will be difficult (to win the Champions League) because there is a lot of money being pumped into countries, that we don’t have here.

“But we have to forget about doing it again. I would settle for the Europa Cup. That is achievable.

“We are now against the big boys and getting our act together and this is where the true teams rise to the occasion.

“What we have to do on Thursday night is rise to the challenge and get a good result.

“You don’t give them any quarter on Thursday night, no chance to dwell on the ball. You commit them and see how they react to that.”

Craig was also in the Hoops side which lost in a penalty shoot-out to Inter in the semi-final of the European Cup in 1972, after two goalless games.

He scored the second penalty of a frustrating evening which ended with Dixie Deans’ missed spot-kick ultimately denying Jock Stein’s side a place in the final.

“Dixie won the penalty competition at training the day before the game,” said Craig.

“So Jock picked the top five and I was meant to be fourth. I had never taken a penalty for Celtic before.

“After Dixie missed his, and they scored twice, I was thinking, ‘I’m glad I’m not taking this one’.

“But our captain Billy McNeill came up to me and said, ‘the boss wants you to take the second one’.

“People ask me if I was nervous. I wasn’t. I was seething that I had been promoted to second.

“As I walked up to take it, I could hear the crowd saying ‘what on earth is he doing going up to take a penalty?’

“It was my one and only penalty for Celtic so I have a 100 per cent record.”

Fellow Lion Bertie Auld is encouraged by Celtic’s recent form - they have won eight games in a row and sit top of the Scottish Premiership with a domestic treble in sight - and believes Parkhead “is the place to be” on Thursday night.

He said: “I think this last month, six weeks has given everybody a bit of hope.

“Celtic Park is the place to be on Thursday night. No one ever experiences anything like it.

“If you are a footballer, you want to be a Celtic player playing in an Old Firm game or a European tie and this Thursday will be a big, big occasion.”

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