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Celtic better placed to deal with Cluj rematch, says Lennon

Neil Lennon believes Celtic are better equipped to deal with Cluj for the second time ahead of their Europa League clash on Thursday night.

The Hoops were knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers by the Romanian outfit on aggregate in August following a 4-3 home defeat.

Lennon expressed delight with his side’s response to the setback which remains their only defeat in 18 matches this season, with their first Ladbrokes Premiership points of the campaign dropped by the leaders in the 1-1 draw against Hibernian at the weekend.

Ahead of the visit of Cluj to Parkhead, which follows the Hoops’ 1-1 draw with Rennes in France in their Group E opener, the Celtic boss outlined his side’s improvement.

He said: “We have good belief about ourselves now.

“There is decent cohesion and understanding, and of course players have got a lot of match rhythm and game time and a familiarity with the way we play.

“In that respect we are in a better place now maybe than we were then.

“We have made a super start to the season, whether it be domestically or in Europe, and I am delighted.

“I thought the performance in Rennes was excellent and we carried on in the same vein domestically.

“There is a new back four, more or less, a new goalkeeper and we have been on a good run since the Cluj match, more or less won every game apart from the weekend.

“I have been delighted with the reaction and style of play and the motivation that the players have.

“We are not taking Cluj lightly at all. We respect them and think they are a highly-motivated team who play a certain way that suits their style and they do it very well.”

Cluj were subsequently knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers by Slavia Prague but opened their Europa League campaign with a 2-1 home win over Italian side Lazio.

The former Celtic skipper is happy for talk of redemption to swirl around the Cluj rematch but is keen for his players not to get too carried away.

“We know it was a game that got away from us and there is always an opportunity in football maybe to right a wrong, if you want to put it that way,” said Lennon.

“Maybe a little bit of motivation for the players but the motivation is we have started the group well.

“We are at home and it is important to try to reinforce the home advantage when you can. You can use it as motivation as long as the players don’t get too over emotional.

“It is the first home game in the group stage and we are very excited about it.

“Cluj are a good team. They have proved that since they played us. They were very close to knocking out Slavia and got a good result against Lazio.

“It is going to be a tough game but one that we are ready for.”