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BACK PAGE BULLETIN: ‘WE ARE IN A BETTER PLACE,’ CELTIC BOSS, MILLER’S ASTONISHING IBROX TITLE CLAIM, KEATINGS OKAY FOR FINAL

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NEIL LENNON insists Celtic will not repeat the mistakes that saw their Champions League dream wrecked earlier in the season when they take on FC Copenhhagen at Parkhead this evening.

The Hoops drew 1-1 in the first leg of the Europa League last-32 encounter in the Danish capital last week and are aiming to finish the job on this occasion and book a place in tomorrow’s draw.

The result echoes the scoreline against Cluj in Romania in August before Lennon saw his team flop to a 4-3 defeat at home to exit Europe’s most prestigious competition.

Lennon is keen to stress that his players will not be over-confident as they attempt to complete the club’s first European post-group stage knock-out triumph since the UEFA Cup fourth round success against Barcelona back in 2004.

The Irishman, speaking to The Scotsman, said: “I think we are in a better place now than we were against Cluj.

“We were just all finding our feet then, really. Look at the likes of Christopher Jullien in defence now, while Fraser Forster has come in since then and some of the other players are up to top speed.

“Some players are playing out of their skin just now so I think we’re in a better place than we were going into that Cluj game.

“But there’s no chance we are taking it for granted. You can’t take any opposition lightly at all. Copenhagen have a good manager in Stale Solbakken, who’s very experienced and has been doing the European bit for a long time now.

“You could see that in the second-half last week when they put us under pressure.”

Lennon is boosted by the return from injury of skipper Scott Brown and winger James Forrest who both missed last Sunday’s 3-1 Premiership win over Kilmarnock. Ryan Christie, though, is banned after picking up a yellow card in Copenhagen.

KENNY MILLER insists Rangers fans would rather win the title than the Europa League this season.

Steven Gerrard’s team became the first team to make the Europa’s last-16 phase when they won 1-0 over Braga in Portugal last night to go through on a 4-2 aggregate.

The Ibrox support is now looking forward to tomorrow’s last-16 ballot, but former Old Firm striker Miller, now at Newcastle Jets in the Aussie A-League, reckons it would mean more to the team’s followers to end Celtic’s dominance of Scottish football as they zero in on their ninth successive championship.

Miller, speaking to talkSPORT, said: “There’s no doubt the domestic scene is the bread and butter.

“It’s what means everything to Rangers and Celtic.

“The league is absolutely crucial when you start out at the start of the season.

“So, there’s no doubt, if Rangers were to have the choice, you’d have the added bonus of obviously stopping nine in a row, but it would be winning that league back, as well.

“Listen, Europe is a huge, huge benefit. It gives the fans a little distraction, it gives the players a little distraction from the domestic scene which is always so intense with that rivalry.

“You want a bit of everything, but I think if you were to give Rangers supporters the choice, there’s no doubt it would be to win that first league in a number of years.”

JAMES KEATINGS has been cleared to play for Inverness Caley Thistle in the Challenge Cup Final.

A fresh appeal was heard after a previous verdict that he should face a suspension was overturned, as Scotzine reported.

The much-travelled striker, who has played for Celtic, Hearts, Hibs, Hamilton Accies, Dundee United and St Johnstone, was shown a second yellow card for simulation by referee Greg Aitken during his side’s semi-final win over Rangers Colts last week.

The subsequent sending-off meant that the player would miss the trophy showdown against Raith Rovers.

The Caley Jags were adamant that Keatings didn’t dive and appealed against the caution, but at a disciplinary hearing, the referee’s original decision was upheld and the frontman’s ban remained in place.

That panel decision drew widespread criticism and the Highlanders admitted they were “incredulous and furious”.

The SFA then said a member of the independent panel who heard the appeal came forward to say he did not review all the evidence before reaching his decision.

The governing body today ruled the decision invalid.

 

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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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