Lennon not prepared to settle for draw

PA Sport
Neil Lennon insists Celtic will not be negative, despite their one-goal first-leg advantage
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Neil Lennon insists Celtic will not be negative, despite their one-goal first-leg advantage

Neil Lennon has dismissed any notion of his Celtic side playing for a draw against HJK Helsinki in the second leg of their Champions League third qualifying round on Wednesday night.

The Scottish champions are leading 2-1 from last Wednesday night's match in Glasgow and favourites to go through to the play-offs. However, that slender lead is likely to ensure a fraught evening for the Parkhead side but the Celtic boss insists his players will not - and cannot - leave the dressing room with a draw in mind.

"It is very difficult to set your team out to play for a draw," said Lennon.

"I am not too sure we have too many players in that mindset. It is not an SPL game so we have to approach it a little bit differently but we are not coming here to sit back and defend all night because that can bring problems.

"We will try to score a goal, or maybe two, if we can but a clean sheet will get us through and we will focus on that as well. We will try to prepare the players as best we can and hopefully we can get a very good performance out of them."

Lennon has a decision to make over skipper Scott Brown and winger James Forrest. Brown's hip injury kept him out of the 1-0 Clydesdale Bank Premier League win over Aberdeen at weekend. Forrest also missed the league's curtain raiser and is battling to recover from a groin injury.

Forward Georgios Samaras has shrugged off the effects of a facial injury sustained against the Dons while defender Charlie Mulgrew returns from suspension.

"Georgios will be fine," said former Celtic skipper Lennon. "We will see how James and Scott are. They are still a little bit stiff and sore. We are giving them as much time as we can, and maybe even give them until this afternoon. I think there has been a significant improvement in both of them over the last couple of days.

"Having spoken to the medical team, yes (Brown's chances are good). Scott likes to play even when he is not 100 per cent. He is such an important player for us but because it is such an important game, we can't take too many chances.

"And it is still so early in the season as well, we don't want to lose him if we push him too hard too early."

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