Manager: We expect a tough test in Sweden
By: Laura Brannan in Sweden on 21 Aug, 2012 15:15
CELTIC touched down in Sweden earlier this afternoon, (Monday), ahead of tomorrow evening´s clash with Helsingborgs, and it will be the first time they have played the first leg of a European qualifier away from home since July 2010.
Neil Lennon isn´t reading too much into that but he does take the stats more seriously when it comes to the Swedish champions. They currently sit fifth in the Swedish Allsvenskan, with 31 points from 19 games, 10 points behind league leaders Elsborg.
They are also benefiting in terms of fitness as they are midway through their season, and have been enjoying a good run of form recently. Despite narrowly losing their match at the weekend, the manager is aware of the threat they will pose tomorrow night.
"Helsingborgs are a very good team," he said, speaking at the pre-match press conference in Sweden. "We´ve had them watched a couple of times. They are strong, well-organised, efficient and they will be a difficult nut to crack.
"It will be a step up in quality after the Helsinki match. They´ve had some decent results of late. I know they lost at the weekend but their recent form has been pretty good."
The manager is aware Helsingborgs have lost Alfred Finnbogason, one of their prominent threats in front of goal. But with the arrival of Nikola Djurdjic today, and a face he knows well from the player´s spell at Rangers last year, the Irishman knows they will pose a strong challenge.
"It´s a bonus for us because he is a very good player and he was in good goalscoring form," he said referring to Finnbogason. "A lot of Helsingborgs´ play was through him so he will be a loss to them.
"There´s no doubt Alejandro Bedoya will be a threat, though. We had him watched and he scored a very good goal at the weekend. I think he, more than most, will motivated to play us.
"I know the name," he added, when asked about Djurdjic, "But I don’t know too much about him. They may throw him in as a surprise package, and obviously if he has a good goalscoring record in Norway then he is one to keep an eye on."
But despite knowing Helsingborgs´ strengths, the manager also believes his own side have what it takes to get past them.
"We have played well away from home in recent games and we´re looking to try and replicate the performance we gave in Helsinki," he continued. "If we can do that then it will give us a great chance going back to Celtic Park in a strong position.
"Qualifying could certainly have a big impact on the season, I don’t know about defining it but it’s a significant game so early. We´ve been aware of that for sometime, though. We´ve had a hectic schedule but the players are very motivated for this game. They know what´s at stake."
Scott Brown, Gary Hooper and James Forrest, who all missed Saturday´s trip to Dingwall, have travelled with the squad and will be assessed in this evening´s training session. The manager is hopeful all three will be fit enough to feature tomorrow.
"We´ll see how they are tonight," he explained. "A few of them trained yesterday and came through it unscathed, so we´ll see how they are at the session this evening. We´re confident the majority will be fit for tomorrow night.
"We will go through some footage of Helsinborgs game at the weekend when we sit down. We´ll see how some of the players are after tonight and decide on the team later on."