Neil Lennon hopes 1967 spirit can inspire his side

It is in Celtic's DNA.

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Charlie Mulgrew scored the second of Celtic's goals which helped to ease nerves ahead of the Benfica tie
Charlie Mulgrew scored the second of Celtic's goals which helped to ease nerves ahead of the Benfica tie

In any analysis of the Parkhead club, you are unavoidably drawn to it. What they achieved there in 1967 defines them to the world.

Now, 45 years after Jock Stein led the Hoops to lift the European Cup, it is Neil Lennon's opportunity to write another important entry into the club's proud history.

In pursuit of the result against Benfica tomorrow night which would give them a place in the last 16 of the Champions League, the current manager has no qualms about drawing on the past.

To this end, the preparation for this penultimate Group G game is scheduled to include a light training session at the National Stadium where the European Cup was hoisted by Billy McNeill and his fellow Lions.

The replica trophy held by the club is also expected to make an appearance there, which will delight the Hoops fans who make the unimposing stadium set in the Jamor Sports complex in a public park a must-see any time they visit this impressive city.

Lennon knows the history, and just wants to make sure his united nations of a squad do, too, in the belief it will further strengthen their resolve to make tomorrow a night to remember.

As he prepared to lead his squad to Portugal today, he said: "We might train at the National Stadium tomorrow morning.

"That may be quite poignant and give the players a little feel of the club's history, in terms of Lisbon."

However, it is what they do at the much more intimidating Stadium of Light which will matter most.

If Barcelona can take something from their game against Spartak in Moscow earlier in the evening, a score draw or a win against the Eagles would send the Hoops soaring into the last 16.

On the back of the victory over Barca at Parkhead, many observers and spectators are talking in terms of the job already being done.

Lennon recognises the folly of such complacency, and is reiterating ad nauseam to his players that they still have to get over the line.

Fortunately, he detects the message is getting through, and took the 2-0 victory at Aberdeen on Saturday through goals from Lassad Nouioui and Charlie Mulgrew – a result which hoisted them back to the top of the SPL – as an indicator his men have finally shaken off any lingering hangover from the Barcelona win celebrations.

"That was a huge win at Aberdeen," said Lennon. "It was really important for us to get that victory ahead of going to Lisbon.

"It gives everyone here a big lift and removed a little bit of the anxiety which may have been permeating the place.

"I wasn't overly concerned by the fact we had dropped points in the league in recent weeks, but I am concerned most of our decent displays in the league this season have come away from home. That's something we need to address.

"But in the context of the season and going into the game in Lisbon tomorrow, that was a very important result against a very consistent Aberdeen."

However, the fact the Dons wear red is about all they have in common with Benfica, who retain joint top spot in the Portuguese league after last weekend's 1-0 win away to Rio Ave.

Captain and influential centre-half Luisao is now back in the side after completing the two month suspension handed to him for pushing a referee during a pre-season friendly.

Having played against the giant Brazilian, Lennon knows how much of a lift his return will bring to team whose opportunity to progress to the last 16 depends on tomorrow's result.

He said: "Luisao has been there for quite a while, and has finished his suspension which kept him out of the first four group games.

"I imagine he will play against us. He will be an asset to them. But we are getting a few players back as well.

"I was pleased with the way the players we had on Saturday got us through that game and with the way they played. Hopefully, there will be a bit more to come in Lisbon."

Lennon has studied the tapes of Benfica's recent games, including Friday's 2-0 cup win over Morierense, and has noted Oscar Cardozo is coming back into form with eight goals in 10 appearances.

But the static-but-clinical 6ft 4in Paraguayan striker is just one of the many options upfront which could be deployed against the Hoops – young Rodrigo is another.

Lennon said: "Cardozo has got a good goal-scoring record, but I'm not sure if he will start against us.

"He didn't start at Celtic Park when we drew 0-0 in the opening game, and he didn't start against Spartak Moscow, either, but he did come on in that game and scored two.

"Cardozo brings something different and there is no doubt he is a strong boy and a really good finisher."

Lennon is more concerned about the goal threat his own side can pose in Lisbon tomorrow.

Using a counter-attack was the main weapon against Moscow and Barcelona, and the manager is delighted by the menace it carries.

"It has been developed bit by bit, and it has taken us a little while to get to where we are now," he reflected.

"We always felt we had the talent. But whether they can see it through is another thing. I said to the players before the game at Aberdeen, 'Listen, Barcelona is gone. It's history. In 20 years time I'll take you for a pint and we can talk about it again. But I want us to get through this group now, so put it one side and concentrate on what we have to do.'

"They know what is at stake."

They also know that behind them is a goalkeeper they can trust. Lennon acknowledged: "Fraser would give anyone confidence. He'll be very important to us tomorrow."

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