Neil Lennon believes his fired-up Celtic players owe it to themselves to overcome Cluj on Thursday night after ‘smouldering’ since their shock Champions League elimination against the Romanian side seven weeks ago.
The Scottish champions’ only defeat in 18 matches in all competitions so far this season came when Cluj triumphed 4-3 at Celtic Park in August to win a dramatic Champions League third round qualifying tie 5-4 on aggregate.
With both clubs subsequently finding themselves drawn in Group E of the Europa League, there is an early opportunity for Celtic to try and set the record straight in front of their own fans.
The Celtic manager has been thrilled by the response of his team to their only significant setback of the campaign and is hopeful they will do themselves justice against Cluj this time around.
“You can never tell initially how they will respond but there was a smouldering in the players after the last game against Cluj,” said Lennon.
“They reacted brilliantly in the two Europa League play-off games against AIK after that, then it was a great performance to draw 1-1 in Rennes in our first group match a fortnight ago.
“I’m not saying we are definitely going to put in another great performance on Thursday but if we can go out on the front foot, then we have a great chance of winning.
“It’s the players’ chance to show that they can play on this stage and really perform at this level. They owe that to themselves, because they are certainly good enough.
“If we can’t get the performance, then get the win, because that would put us in a healthy position. Cluj are a tough nut to crack so I want us to play like we can play – with a high tempo and attacking options coming from different angles. I think we’ll feed off the atmosphere as well.
“I was pleased to get Cluj again when the draw was made because it is a quick opportunity to right a wrong, if you want to call it that. I don’t want to build it up as a revenge game or anything like that. The important thing is that we play well and maximise the home advantage. That’s really what I’m focusing on.”