Neil Lennon: Bread and butter key after being the toast of Europe

NEIL LENNON has today attempted to bring his last 16 heroes back down to earth by demanding they show domestically the kind of form which has made them the toast of Europe.

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Lennon wants Celtic to turn their full attention back to the domestic scene for now
Lennon wants Celtic to turn their full attention back to the domestic scene for now

The Celtic manager believes the benchmark has been set. He fully expects his Bhoys to enjoy being part of the December 20 draw for the knockout round of the Champions League, but to get back to some kind of consistency while they wait for the resumption on the continent in mid-February.

Lennon has been dismayed by the way points have been dropped immediately before and after Champions League games this season.

But they are still top of the table and can stretch their lead tomorrow when they have a lunchtime kick off away to Kilmarnock.

Lennon wants their full attention to be on the immediate job in hand, and said: "Being in the draw is tremendous, but we should be able to put that to one side because the last 16 is not until the end of February.

"We have two full months now, so, come on, let's get down to playing week in, week out like we did in the second half against Spartak.

"They have shown us they can do it."

Celtic have already dropped 17 points in the defence of their title, and were also held to a draw by Arbroath in the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup,

That means a replay at gloomy Gayfield next midweek, just seven days after they had the European spotlight on them for joining Barcelona in qualifying from Group G.

The focus will be on them again but this time it will be to see if they can avoid becoming a shock cup casualty. It's a stark contrast to this week and all the Euro adulation.

But Celtic's domestic problems this season have come on their own patch, and Lennon hopes the trips to Rugby Park and Arbroath will generate the same kind of performances as his men have delivered at tough venues including Tynecastle, Fir Park and Pittodrie.

If they had been able to consistently reproduce their European form in the SPL, the title would be well on its way back to Parkhead for another year.

But the Champions League became the priority in the first third of the season, and Lennon is confident that the boost given to their confidence can now be transferred to domestic matters.

Celtic have won seven of the 10 games they have faced in the qualifying rounds and group stage of the Champions League, drawing another at Parkhead against Benfica, and only losing 2-1 in Barcelona and Lisbon.

That's a record to make any boss proud, and Lennon reflected: "The lads have really galvanised themselves for the European games, probably to the detriment of the domestic form.

"A few of them have had an eye on these Champions League games. Now they can put that away."

The tension and drama of Wednesday is now being replaced by congratulations from around the world.

But Lennon does not want this to be the climax to their European season.

He said: "What pleases me is we have been unbeaten at home in Europe this season, and we have picked up points away from home. That's fantastic.

"We have made Celtic Park a really difficult place to come to in this competition. That's something I was really worried about because, when you have had a record for so long, it is there to be broken.

"The home form is good, the away form has improved, though it is not where we want it to be yet. But there was a lot of steel about them, particularly in the second half against Spartak, and that gave me a lot of satisfaction."

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