Celtic ready to go on the offensive against Cluj

Celtic manager Neil Lennon sensed plenty of areas his team can exploit in the second leg against Cluj as they drew 1-1 in their Champions League clash in Romania.

James Forrest’s first-half equaliser shifted the balance of the third qualifying-round tie in Celtic’s favour ahead of the return in Glasgow.

The Hoops continued their free-scoring start to the season with a 5-2 win at Motherwell on Saturday to make it 12 goals in two Ladbrokes Premiership games, on top of the 12 they scored in the first two rounds in Europe.

And Lennon will look to unleash their attacking arsenal on Cluj on Tuesday night.

“They are a big, strong team, they have good pace in certain areas and they are direct,” Lennon said when asked if he expected a physical encounter.

“They are a threat at set-plays. I don’t think it’s going to be over-physical, it wasn’t in Romania.

“There was plenty in the game in the first leg to suggest we could hurt Cluj in certain areas, so that’s what we will be trying to do.”

But Lennon added: “Cluj will be hungry. You can see from some of the soundbites coming from them what the game means to them as well.

“We have to match that hunger and earn the right to play and then really play with purpose and a forcefulness.”

Several members of the Cluj camp have claimed it would be a “miracle” if they qualify, with visiting boss Dan Petrescu quoted as saying Celtic normally get an extra 10 per cent of decisions from referees when they play at home in the Champions League.

Lennon said: “I just ignore it because we have had our fair share of decisions go against us in Europe over the years.

“I thought the referee was excellent in the first leg. I have no complaints over any of the refereeing performances we have seen so far and I don’t think there is any bias from referees either.”

Lennon confirmed Celtic would have three players back in their squad.

Mikey Johnston and Hatem Abd Elhamed have shaken off thigh strains while Jozo Simunovic returns from a domestic suspension.

Lennon said: “Everyone is fully fit. Hatem will come back into the squad now and Jozo obviously from the weekend. Mikey is fit so he will be in contention to start. It’s good to have them all in contention.”

Provisional Celtic squad: Bain, Elhamed, Ralston, Bolingoli, Ajer, Jullien, Simunovic, Bitton, Brown, McGregor, Christie, Ntcham, Forrest, Johnston, Edouard, Bayo, Griffiths, Sinclair, Hayes, Shved, Morgan, Gordon.

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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