NEIL LENNON has been congratulated for turning things around since the “hysterics” of Celtic’s Champions League exit against Cluj.
That’s the view of former Hoops striker Scott McDonald as the Parkhead side prepare for tonight’s crucial Europa League Group E match against Lazio in the Olympic Stadium in Rome.
Since the shock elimination against the Romanians on a 5-4 aggregate score following a 1-1 draw away from home, Lennon has led the side to a Betfred League Cup Final, kept them on top of the Premiership and has won seven points to sit top of their section and a victory in the Italian capital would almost certainly book a place in the competition’s knock-out stages next year.
McDonald acknowledged he is surprised the Irishman has improved the squad he inherited from Brendan Rodgers who quit in February in a sudden departure to Leicester City.
The former Australian international, speaking to the BBC, said: “You have to fully commend him.
“After the defeat in Europe, the hysterics started and the support was all over the place. Boli Bolingoli and Christopher Jullien didn’t play that game and everyone was saying: ‘What’s going on?’.
DELIGHT BEFORE DESPAIR…Odsonne Edouard celebrates his goal against Cluj – but the Romanians replied with four.
“It was a tough ask taking over from Brendan Rodgers, but it just shows what a quality manager Neil Lennon is to get by all that and come out the other end and build his own team now.
“Neil has brought special moments, especially that win against Lazio. They’re already in the League Cup Final and you wouldn’t put it past them to win the treble again.”
McDonald is convinced his old team will make progress to the Europa League last 32 for the third successive season – even if they lose this evening.
The ex-hitman, who scored 64 goals in three years after joining from Motherwell in 2007, added: “The football they’ve been playing is phenomenal.
“They’ve still got Rennes to come to Celtic Park, so I’m more than confident they will reach the next stage.”
* LAZIO are winless in their last 10 European games against British sides – losing six and drawing four – since beating Chelsea 2-1 in the 1999/2000 Champions League.
* CELTIC have never won away against Italian opponents in all European competition, losing nine and drawing three of their 12 games, while failing to score on nine occasions.
* LAZIO have lost six of their last seven Europa League games, winning only one, as many as they had in their previous 35 in the competition, winning 18, drawing 11 and losing six.
* CELTIC are top of their section with seven points following home wins over the Italians (2-1) and Cluj (2-0) while drawing 1-1 with Rennes in France.
* RYAN CHRISTIE has been directly involved in three goals in his three Europa League games this season – strikes against the Serie A outfit and the French side while Christopher Jullien scored the winner against Lazio a fortnight ago from the playmaker’s right-wing corner-kick.