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BACK PAGE BULLETIN: EURO RIVAL TIPS CELTIC ‘TO GO ALL THE WAY’, STENDEL ‘WORTH THE WAIT’, TIERNEY WORRY FOR SCOTS

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DAN PETRESCU masterminded Celtic’s Champions League exit this season, but the Cluj boss reckons Neil Lennon’s side can win the Europa League.

The former Chelsea defender is preapring his players for their fourth tilt against the Hoops with honours even so far with one win apiece and a draw.

Scotland’s title kings arrive in Romania for tomorrow night’s final Europa League Group E encounter already assured of pole position in the section and a place in the last-32 draw of the competition in Nyon on Monday.

Lennon has guided his team to two victories over Lazio, one win and draw against Rennes and success in Glasgow over Cluj to make certain they get an important seeded postition for the crucial noon ballot.

Petrescu told the Daily Record: “Celtic can go all the way. They can win the competition.

“I would say the same about Lazio, if they qualify. They are both good enough to go all the way. They are Champions League teams, in my opinion.”

The Romanian title holders only need one point to edge out the Serie A cracks and join the Celts in the knock-out stages in February.

But Petrescu said: “I won’t change my opinion. Celtic are still favourites. They could play three teams in the Romanian championship and their third team would win the title.

“I didn’t expect to be here with this possibility of needing just one point to qualify.

“But, irrespective of what happens, I would be sad if we didn’t progress now.

“It’s clear we have two possibilities. If we play for a draw we could lose, so we have to play to win.

“It will be difficult because Celtic have won their last 12 matches. I know the Celtic coach and the mentality. They will come here to win.”

CLUB owner Ann Budge insists there is nothing to indicate Hearts owe Barnsley compensation for new boss Daniel Stendel.

The German has been appointed as the Edinburgh side’s gaffer on a two-and-half-year deal, but the English Championship side are seeking a financial settlement.

The Yorkshire club, who announced a “separation” with Stendel on October 8, have accused the German of breaching contract by holding talks with a rival Championship club while at Oakwell.

Budge, speaking on Hearts TV, said: “I’m satisfied that at this moment in time we’ve nothing to suggest there is any compensation due and on that basis we’re carrying on.

“I was as frustrated as everybody else that the process was taking some time.

“We wanted to do it properly, but we’ve got here and I’m sure it was worth the wait.”

Stendel said in a statement that his relationship with Barnsley was terminated with “immediate effect” when they relieved him of his duties two months ago and that the club’s hierarchy has refused to speak to him for a fortnight.

“I’m happy to be here and I’m looking forward to the first game,” said new Tynecastle chief, who refused to discuss the allegations he breached his previous contract.

“I’ve said all that I want in my statement, so I think that’s enough. I am happy I can train Hearts and I think that is the main thing today.”

Hearts are joint-bottom in the Premiership, after a run of just one win from their last 10 league matches, but Stendel is optimistic about his new job.

He added: “Our first talks were positive and after that the feeling of trust I got here was more important than money and other things. I felt the club wanted me, my personality and my ideas of how to play football.

“There is a nice stadium and really good supporters. The reaction after I signed on social media was so positive and I hope I can bring the success back to Hearts.

“We need to change the game on the pitch. I cannot say we’ll win the next three games, but we can show more confidence, play more in front so that you can see this is the Hearts style.

“We want to excite the fans so that they say: ‘Okay, that was a nice game, next week we’ll come back’.

“We want to win more games and when we win more than we lose, we’ll step up the table.”

Stendel hopes to reunite with his Barnsley assistant Chris Stern, but for now will work with Austin MacPhee – who remains in the running to be named the club’s new sporting director – and coaches Jon Daly and Liam Fox.

KIERAN TIERNEY could become an injury problem for Scotland boss Steve Clarke ahead of the crucial March Euro 2020 semi-final game against Israel at Hampden.

The 22-year-old former Celtic left-back was forced off through injury after just half-an-hour of Arsena;s 3-1 win comeback win over West Ham on Monday night at the London Stadium.

The Gunners have confirmed Tierney suffered a dislocated right shoulder and the news comes as another blow for the defender, who has struggled for fitness since arriving from the Hoops in a record-breaking £25million deal in August.

He missed the champions’ run-in to the previous season as they sealed the historic treble treble and underwent a double hernia operation in the summer. He did not make his debut for the Emirates outfit until late September and he has made just 11 appearances.

Tierney will miss the trip to Standard Liege in the Europa League tomorrow with the club saying he will undergo assessment.

 

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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