MIKAEL Lustig believes Celtic need to look beyond the familiar faces included in the Fenerbahce line-up on Thursday night as they seek to atone for poor finishing against Hearts on Saturday.
In the past, Celtic’s domestic ambitions have often been hampered by lackadaisical displays on their return from European assignments.
However, a stirring performance in the Amsterdam ArenA earlier this month actually brought succour following the previous weekend’s 2-1 defeat by Aberdeen. Celtic then followed up the 2-2 draw with Ajax in which they twice held the lead with a 6-0 thumping of Dundee.
Lustig believes their Europa League adventures can help propel Celtic towards the Premiership title rather than imperil their chances, as rivals Aberdeen are hoping might be the case.
The Swede has advised his team-mates not to get overly hung about the fact former Manchester United players Nani and Robin van Persie are on a mission to make up for Fenerbahce’s surprise opening day Group A defeat by Molde.
“I’ve played against both of them before at international level,” said Lustig. “They are maybe a little bit older but they are very good quality and excellent footballers. They will have nine other good players. Fenerbahce is a big club who has spent a lot of money so I’m sure it will be a huge game.
“It’s especially exciting for the fans. They see the big names from Fenerbahce and prefer that. We could have drawn someone like Krasnodar from Russia – a team that doesn’t have the big names but are still a good side.
“Hopefully we can get the European atmosphere that makes Celtic park special and we can then respond.”
Lustig is pleased to have drawn such big names as Fenerbahce and Ajax, since it guarantees Champions League-style nights at Celtic Park.
He doesn’t consider such assignments to be unhelpful to their league ambitions. Celtic edged a point nearer Aberdeen on Saturday courtesy of the Pittodrie side’s defeat by Inverness.
“It’s a really big game and we need to stay focused and go through the group,” he said.
“We want to be in Europe as long as possible. When it’s a big team with big names in it then it makes it a little bit more special.
“We have struggled a bit in the past when we have come back from Champions League to play in the league. But we were down against Aberdeen and then Ajax gave us a boost. We know that we can play good football and take points away from home.
“I think that Europe is important for us. It’s always easier to play well when you have a good result in the bag.
“If we can do well in Europe then we will do better in the domestic league as well.
“We are still Celtic,” he added. “We should have a decent enough squad. It’s not just 11 or 14 players who have to do the work every game.
“The whole squad needs to be ready – especially when we play in Europe on a Thursday. We will need to change things at times and everyone has to be ready.”
Even manager Ronny Deila admitted that Saturday’s performance underlined why Celtic are pursuing former West Ham striker Carlton Cole, who has returned to London to mull over his future after training with the club last week.
“I think he has not played for a little while, but you can still see he’s a good player,” said Lustig, when asked if he would like to see Celtic tie up the move for Cole, a former England international. “He’s experienced and he looks very good in the box.
“He’s done really well down south and he brings us something that we don’t have right now. He’s different to what we have. He’s a box player and is maybe stronger in the air [than what we have].
“You always want new players to make the squad better,” he added.
“If we do sign Carlton Cole then it’s not going to make us worse – we will be better.”