LEIGH GRIFFITHS will start his first game for Celtic in four months against Cluj in Romania tonight.

The one-time prolific hitman has not even reached double figures in the last two troubled seasons where he missed seven months due to personal issues.

Griffiths claimed six strikes in the previous campaign and has notched only three this time out as he has battled to overcome injury and a virus.

Neil Lennon, who left the Scotland international out of his victorious Betfred League Cup Final squad at Hampden on Sunday, is ready to unleash him in the final Europa League Group E outing with the Hoops already guaranteed top spot in the section and a place among the seeds for Monday’s last-32 draw in Nyon.

The gaffer, though, is adamant Griffiths is NOT on trial in Transylvania.

Lennon has taken the opportunity to leave suspended Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, Fraser Forster, Ryan Christie, Odsonne Edouard and Tom Rogic at home while talented teens Karamoko Dembele and Scott Robertson could get a chance at some stage in proceedings against Dan Petrescu’s outfit.

However, there will be special attention paid to the returning 29-year-old attack-leader and the Irishman, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “Leigh’s attitude has been excellent. He has been begging for the opportunity, so he’s got one now.

“It’s not like this is a trial game for him or anything like that. We know what he can do, he just has to go out there and be free in what he does.

“In the context of the season, it’s a big night for him because he hasn’t played much football.

“There’s no pressure on him. We know what a player he is. It’s just a question of getting as much game time into his legs as possible and him going out and enjoying himself and working hard to get something out of the game.

“There’s a hunger about him to impress all the time. He’s going to get that opportunity.”

Griffiths has been restricted to just one start and 12 appearances this term and there has been speculation he is fighting to save his career at the champions.

Lennon added: “That’s way too dramatic. We are certainly not writing him off. None of those soundbites are coming from anyone inside the club.

“He’s got an opportunity to get match fitness allied to topping up his fitness work behind the scenes.

“He knows what he has to do so he will be really looking forward to going out there and playing, I have no doubt about that.

“Can we get him back to where he was? Of course. It’s down to him in terms of his day-to-day work and then what he brings to the team when he does play.

“Not just a goal, his all-round performance. He’s a smart, smart player and you never lose that knack of getting into the right places.

“His movement is good and, hopefully, his touch will be good. It’s a great opportunity for him against really good opposition in a high intensity game. He can forge a place for himself going forward.

“It’s taken him time to get back full fitness. He was unlucky not to make the squad at the weekend, but he will start on this occasion and I’m sure he is looking forward to it.”

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Cluj v Celtic this evening – only in your champion CQN.


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