Neil Lennon urges Celtic to finish the job and qualify with confidence

Neil Lennon insists Celtic will go on the front foot and look to seal their Europa League place by killing off AIK Stockholm in the return leg of their play-off round tie tonight.

Neil Lennon wants Celtic to impose their game on AIK. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

The Scottish champions take a 2-0 lead to Sweden, and Lennon has dismissed any notion of sitting in to protect the advantage they built up in Glasgow last week thanks to strikes from James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard. The Northern Irishman believes that 
will only invite trouble to the Scottish champions’ door.

Instead, he will stick to the attacking game plan that has taken his team to the brink of qualification. “We’re a front-foot team,” Lennon said on the club’s official website. “We’re not going to ask players to do something alien in the space of two or three days. Setting up defensively might be a recipe for disaster.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

“AIK are dangerous. They won at the weekend, they have good strikers, and in Seb Larsson they have a very experienced, quality player who’s a threat at set plays.

“Set pieces are something we have to be very wary of. They have a good mentality and will believe the tie’s not over so we have to respect that as well.”

Celtic conceded four times at home as they were dumped out of the Champions League by Romanians Cluj. But they barely broke sweat as they took care of AIK at Parkhead last week.

Lennon would not be surprised if his side may have more to deal with at the Friends Arena – but that will not dissuade him from his game plan. “If the time runs down they might come out and have a real go at us, or they might do that to start with,” he said. “They may be patient, let us have the ball and counter-attack us.

“I can’t predict it. But what I can predict is we’ll play how we want to play and impose our game on them.”

AIK boss Rikard Norling, meanwhile, claims he has nothing to gain by reviewing how Cluj were able to rip Celtic’s defence apart four times in their 4-3 win at Parkhead.

As the Swedes were unable to match that feat in Glasgow last week when they conceded those two goals in the first leg of their Europa League play-off, Norling is convinced that he will learn more about Celtic’s defensive deficienciesby rewatching his own team’s setback last week and analysing their shortcomings rather than by replaying Cluj’s triumph of two weeks ago.

Asked if he had seen weaknesses in Celtic that will allow his team to turn the tie around, Norling said: “If I said no to that it would be terrible. There is always something that you think that you can use.

“We’ve analysed that game thoroughly and we have some ideas how to attack this time. We can’t be naive, because we’re facing a very good side with very good individual skills, especially in the transitions. We need to be clever.”

The difference in style between his own team and Cluj is another reason Norling will not look to the Romanians for inspiration, as is tonight’s venue. “Cluj scored four goals in Glasgow and we didn’t. But we’re not playing the same way and I don’t think I have anything to get from their game against Cluj at all.

“It’s all about us. Celtic did not play Cluj here at the Friends Arena. They are playing us here on our own pitch. It’s important that it is on our home pitch and that gives us an advantage.”