NEIL LENNON hopes to sign two new players for the qualifying next round of the Champions League.
The Celtic boss identified replacing Mikael Lustig as a priority and, speaking to the Daily Record, admitted: “It’s obvious we need a right-back.
“We’re looking to get one in. Maybe if we negotiate the second leg we’ll get one r two players in for the next round because the squad still needs a bit of quality and depth.
“We spent four hours on Wednesday on one or two positions. It’s a lengthy process. I spoke to Brendan Rodgers about it and they were looking for a couple of years to get someone in to challenge Mika and it was difficult to find.
“Mika is a brilliant player, 77 caps for Sweden, he has played World Cups, European Championships, Champions League. He was a top, top player.
“He’d a very special time here and he was crushed when it came to an end.
“He’s the benchmark, though.”
Lennon has until Thursday to meet UEFA’s signing deadline.
JUST PERFECT…James Forrest thumps in the opening goal in the 2-0 Scottish Cup win over Hibs in March.
JAMES FORREST could become Neil Lennon’s Perfect 10.
The Irishman, who intends to make the 28-year-old winger a Bhoy for life with an extended contract, believes the Scotland international could benefit by a change of position at some stage in his career.
Lennon handed Forrest his debut a decade ago and the fleet-footed flanker has repaid his faith by becoming a key man at the club as well as picking up 17 medals.
The Parkhead gaffer, speaking to the Sunday Mail, said: “As James he goes on, he may need to evolve his game in a different position. He may need to play inside as he gets older and that’s something we’ll look at.
“He’s two-footed, quick and he can get on the half-turn in those inside positions to break the lines, rather than just doing the long running all the time on the wing.
“He can play right and left – he played on the left in my first spell here. If people are getting too wise to him, can he develop his game for different positions? Of course he can, because he’s got the talent.
“I stuck him in the 10 position away to Hibs in my first week back in the Scottish Cup and he scored a wonder goal.
“He had a hell of a season last year in terms of games and fatigue started to kick in towards the end. That’s something we have to be mindful of.
“But he’s in his peak, and he won’t be averse to being flexible about where we want him to play.
“We’ll gauge it and speak to him about it, because I quite like him in that 10 position. He’s got that change of pace that can kill people in that role.”
Forrest can expect competition for a wing role this season from £2million Maryan Shved and the rejuvenated Lewis Morgan, who has looked lively in his appearances against FK Sarajevo and Rennes.
Lennon added: “We’ve got a lot of other wide players, but whether they’re up to his standard remains to be seen.
“If it’s not working, I can always say, ‘Out you go’ on the right or left. He’s brilliant coming in from both sides.
“He’s just a top, top player. He’s been brilliant. From the day I first saw him until now.
“Over that 10-year period he’s been magnificent for the club.”
KIERAN TIERNEY could be on the move to Arsenal after the London club improved their offer to £25million.
Celtic booted out their original bid of £15million, as Scotzine reported last month.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Serie A outfit Napoli are also showing an interest in the 22-year-old Scotland international left-back who is currently sidelined with a pelvic problem following a double hernia operation in the summer.
However, Gunners gaffer Unai Emery is hoping the latest move will be successful for the defender who is contracted to the Hoops until the summer of 2023.
LEIGH GRIFFITHS is in the running for a starting role in Celtic’s second leg Champions League opening qualifier against FK Sarajevo at Parkhead on Wednesday night.
The comeback striker looked sharp during his 77 minutes of action in the goalless Friendly encounter against French Cup winners Rennes in Glasgow yesterday.
Assistant boss John Kennedy, speaking to the Celtic website, admitted: “I’m delighted with Leigh. He’s done terrifically well throughout pre-season in terms of his application and he has trained every single minute.
“That was a challenge in its own for Leigh after coming from a period of time out, so it was about making sure he got the training in and didn’t pick up another injury that could set him back.
“He’s got through the hardest part of it, and now we’re beginning to see a bit more of what Leigh Griffiths is all about.
“When he’s playing off the shoulder, he’s looking sharp in his pressing. He tailed off a bit towards the end, so we made the change, but that’ll hold him in great stead going forward.
“Leigh will definitely be in contention for Wednesday.”
BOLI BOLINGOLI-MBOMBO, the club’s recent £3million purchase from Rapid Vienna, earned praise following his debut in last week’s first leg 3-1 in the opening Champions League qualifier over FK Sarajevo in Bosnia.
The Belgian left-back limped off in the second-half, but boss Neil Lennon, speaking to the Sunday Mail, said: “He should be fit for Wednesday. He rolled his ankle and it got progressively sorer as the game went on.
“I was delighted with him, though. He’s had four or five days’ work with us and was then straight into a very highly pressurised game and he handled it really well.”