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Neil Lennon relishing chance to topple AC Milan in tough Europa League group

Celtic v Hibernian – Scottish Premiership – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

Neil Lennon has targeted a winning start for Celtic against AC Milan in their Europa League opener.

The Scottish champions will kick off their Group H campaign with a visit from the Serie A giants on October 22, before they travel to Lille and then host Sparta Prague.

The Parkhead boss, who faced AC Milan as a Celtic player in 2004 and 2007, and then again as manager of the club in 2013, told Celtic TV: “I’m sure the players are looking forward to it, and they’ve got some great players.

“I think there’s been an improvement in AC Milan over the last couple of seasons and, slowly but surely, they’ve started to get better.

“They’re in a transitional period. They’re not the force that they were but I think the owners behind the scenes want to make them a force again in Italian football.

“They’re building their way up to that and they’re AC Milan and that name carries a lot of weight around world football, never mind European football.

“But our players will be excited by it. It always brings the best out in them and hopefully we can maximize home advantage.”

A week later the Hoops take on French side Lille at the Stade Pierre Mauroy.

Lennon, preparing for the trip to St Johnstone in the Premiership on Sunday, remembers Timothy Weah, the American winger who spent the latter half of the 2018/19 season on loan at Celtic, making 17 appearances and scoring four goals.

He said: “Lille are a very good side, a quality side who’ve been in the Champions League for a few years.

“Timothy did very well for me in a few of the games. He was more of a squad player coming off the bench, but he started a couple of games and got himself a couple of goals, so it’ll be good to see him again.

“I don’t know too much about Sparta Prague but we’ll have all our prep work done for when we do play them, but you can imagine they’ll be another very good European side.

“Any of the teams in the group could have been in pot one when you look at the quality of them.

“It’s a measure of how well we’ve done over the years that we made pot one, so that’s good for the reputation of the club. So we’ll see how the group transpires.

“We want to try and win all our home games. We did that last season and it put us on a really good footing in the group, so that’s our first objective really – to win the game against Milan and take it from there.”