[media-credit name=”Pic: Actionplus.co.uk” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]The beautiful city of Lisbon has always held a special place in the hearts of the Celtic faithful ever since that famous day in May back in 1967, when Jock Stein’s side upset the odds in defeating Internazionale and land the European Cup.
Now 45 years on Neil Lennon takes his troops back to the clubs own Mecca with the aim of securing the victory which would take them to the last 16 of the Champions League, a feat which was universally seen as being highly unlikely when the Hoops were drawn in, what initially appeared as a tough group with Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow.
Those of a green and white persuasion have not just been living on cloud nine since that incredible triumph over Barca two weeks ago. Such was the enormity of the win that Celtic supporters the world over must be feeling like lottery winners, drunk on the back of a fantastic Champions League run which may well culminate in another night of joy in the Portuguese capital.
However there is the distinct possibility that a reality check may bring them back down to earth as the Eagles of Benfica have not given up on joining on the coat tails of Barcelona to earn a place in the knock out stages of the world’s most lucrative club competition.
This may not be the same Benfica side, inspired by the legendary Eusebio, which flexed their muscles as a major superpower in the early sixties winning the famous old trophy for two consecutive years, but Jorge Jesus carries the hopes of an incredible 200,000 club members who will expect three points to be won over his Glasgow opponents.
For Neil Lennon the decision on how to approach this one will be fascinating, does he adopt the same ‘park the bus’ system which helped topple Messi and co? Or does he take the bold decision and send his side out with a more attacking style with the likes of Hooper, Samaras, Commons and Forrest ready to cause headaches for the Benfica backline?
The Portuguese were no real shakes when the teams played out a 0-0 draw at Celtic Park on matchday one but with the return of the imposing presence of captain Luisao from suspension the hosts will be a tough nut to crack and Lennon’s men will need to be on the top of their game if they are to return with another positive result.
Therefore it will be imperative that Victor Wanyama turns on another impressive showing in the middle of the park, the young Kenyan has been immense in this competition and can expect to have added to his growing number of suitors if he helps the Celts topple the Portuguese giants.
However should Celtic lose all is not yet lost as a victory in their final match at home to the disappointing Spartak will probable enable the Hoops to secure second spot, but make no mistake Neil Lennon will be cautiously confident that he can to can earn his place in the history books by leading the old Glasgow club to another momentous night in Lisbon.
And then we may well expect to see recently announced self-confessed Celts fan Snoop Dog bubbling like a baby, a fortnight after old rocker Rod Stewart found keeping his emotions in check too much to handle.
Written by Robbie Devine