Why Neil Lennon is backing Celtic to bounce back from Ferencvaros defeat

Manager says his squad is ‘brimming with character’ ahead of Motherwell match

Neil Lennon wants his team to focus on their ten-in-a-row bid following their defeat by Ferencvaros. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Celtic manager Neil Lennon knows from experience that character can overcome the chaos ensuing from a Champions League second round qualifying exit. The Ferencvaros failure is the Parkhead club’s first elimination at this stage of the competition since the shambolic 5-0 thumping by Artmedia Bratislava in 2005. Celtic fell just short of overturning that first-leg loss with a 4-0 home win in the return and the club recovered from the setback to go on to reclaim the title. Lennon wants the parallels between these two low points to extend that far.

Lennon, who will consider giving David Turnbull game time against his old club Motherwell this afternoon following the playmaker’s £3.25 million acquisition this week, is keen to separate the 2-1 scoreline from the performance.

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“I felt after the second leg against Artmedia we had a good team. We were very unlucky not to turn around things in that match,” he said. “I know it sounds weird when you say that. We could easily have won that game 5-0 and it gave me a lot of confidence as a player to know we’d got a good side with a lot of character. I know what I’ve got with these players too. They’re brimming with character. I’m just disappointed for them that they’re not in the Champions League because I think they’re good enough to make inroads in it.”

Lennon, inset, who confirmed that Celtic have accepted a bid for Tom Rogic – believed to be from a Qatari club – refuses to dwell on his comments following the exit that players were allowing themselves to be distracted at making “inroads” into leaving.

“I think the players do show professionalism. I know from my own personal experience, you can get a little bit distracted,” the Celtic manager said. “What I am asking for them is to fully focus. I have seen no evidence of distraction in the performance but I want us to be a tight-knit group, which we are, and no more distractions. We have to focus on the season ahead.”

To achieve their historic ten-in-a-row, Lennon accepts that he needs defensive reinforcements. The club are expected to step up moves to sign Shane Duffy from Brighton this week. The likelihood of Kristoffer Ajer departing for a fee of around £15m could lead Celtic to seek a permanent deal for the Republic of Ireland cap, who has reportedly been the subject of near £10m bids from West Brom and West Ham.

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