Europe 'great substitute' for Old Firm

Neil Lennon during a training session at Lennoxtown, Glasgow.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon has described his side's Champions League success as a "great substitute" for the loss of Old Firm games this season, as he looks to qualify for the knockout stages on Wednesday night.

Wednesday, 05 December 2012
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The club will host Spartak Moscow at Parkhead in the final Group G game, with a place in the last 16 up for grabs if they can get a better result than Benfica against Barcelona.

Celtic have taken seven points from five games - including an impressive 2-1 home victory against Barca - so far in this year's Champions League.

Lurgan-born Lennon said it has made up for the absence of Glasgow rivals Rangers in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, and the loss of four Old Firm derbies.

"There is no doubt it has been difficult at times," he said, reflecting on the Ibrox club's liquidation and reformation in Irn-Bru Division Three.

"There has been an economic problem with not having the four Old Firm games this season, a lot of revenue and interest has been taken away.

"Getting through to the Champions League has been a sort of great substitute, certainly for the players and supporters, they have really enjoyed the campaign so far.

"As regards next year, it will be the exact same remit. I think we might have three qualifiers to get through so it will make qualifying even more difficult.

"But that is just the reality of where we are so we have to accept that and make the best of what we have and that is exactly what Celtic are trying to do."

Meanwhile caretaker Spartak coach Valery Karpin has insisted his side - who have nothing but pride to play for - won't take the game lightly.

He said: "No, we will take this as a serious game and there will be no place for experiments, except with maybe two or three players. We have a lot of things to prove and it us up to the players to prove they are up to the challenge."