Celtic boss Lennon dismisses Cluj ‘miracle’ claims

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has dismissed claims from Cluj that it would take a “miracle” for the Romanian champions to knock Celtic out of the Champions League.

Cluj boss Dan Petrescu claimed his side would be at a major financial disadvantage when they come up against their Scottish counterparts in the third qualifying round.

The former Chelsea player believes his side upset the odds against Astana and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the opening two rounds and will need to punch above their financial weight again.

However, Lennon told a media conference in Romania: “I don’t really buy into Dan’s comments that it would be a miracle.

“I don’t know the budgets of both teams, but I do know it will be competitive.”

Lennon, who has seen right-back Hatem Abd Elhamed shake off the dead leg he suffered in Saturday’s 7-0 thrashing of St Johnstone, added: “We have got a bit of momentum, we had a great result at the weekend.

“All that will give us is a bit of impetus going into the weekend. It will have no real relevance on Wednesday night, but psychologically it’s good for the players to have a win and a performance like that going into such an important game.

“This is a totally different animal. This is Europe, away from home, against the Romanian champions. We are very motivated, obviously, but we are very wary and respectful of the opposition.

“We come here in good form, Cluj are in good form, so I think the tie is pretty even.”

Petrescu has had success against Scottish opposition before, guiding Unirea Urziceni to a 4-1 Champions League win over Rangers at Ibrox in 2009 after outfoxing Walter Smith.

The 51-year-old has since managed in Russia, Qatar, China and the United Arab Emirates.

Lennon said: “He’s had a very varied career as a coach. I remember him when he was a player in the Premier League, I played against him when he was at Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday, a very intelligent player and he’s a very experienced coach. So we are very respectful of Dan.”

Petrescu’s preferred style of play is direct and Lennon admits they will need to stand up to the pressure.

“They cross the ball early, I think they will be a threat at set plays as well,” Lennon said. “We have to be mentally strong and have good concentration.”

Goalkeeper Scott Bain is expecting to be tested by the home side’s tactics.

“It’s going to be a real difficult game,” Bain said. “From watching them, they look strong and powerful. They like to work hard and put pressure on teams and put balls in the box.

“We need to be really strong defensively and work hard for each other, and every man on the pitch needs to work extremely hard to get anything from the game.”