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LEAD ON, OLI

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OLIVIER NTCHAM, the matchwinner against Lazio in Rome, will get his reward when he leads out Celtic for the final Europa League Group E encounter against Cluj this evening.

The French midfielder, who scored the stoppage-time winner to give the Hoops their first-ever victory on Italian soil in 13 attempts, steps in for the suspended Scott Brown to skipper the side in Romania.

Callum McGregor normally takes the armband in the absence of Brown, but he has been left at home to rest for a game that is virtually meaningless with the team already winning their section to go into Monday’s draw as one of the top seeds.

The responsibility for the former Manchester City prospect, who cost Brendan Rodgers £4.5million when he arrived in the summer of 2017, is a remarkable turnaround in fortune from the start of the season when it looked as though he had kicked his last ball for the champions.

The 23-year-old powerhouse made some ill-advised comments to the French media about being flattered by interest from Marseille while being disappointed a move to Porto had not materialised.

However, Lennon has managed to get the anchorman’s focus back on the club that actually pays his wages and he will now be trusted with a leader’s role in the team.

The Hoops gaffer, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “It’s nice to give someone different that responsibility and we’ll see if he can thrive on it. I think he has the personality and he certainly has the respect of his team-mates to do that.

“I’m really pleased with his attitude and the way he’s training. He was unfortunate not to get game time in the Betfred Cup Final Sunday and I’m delighted with what he’s doing around the place.

“I want him to take that responsibility so he will be captain.”

Lennon added: “He said some things that he probably meant at the time, but maybe some of it was taken out of context.

“We had a chat about it at the start of the season and he parked it and since then he has been absolutely terrific, so I have no qualms about making him captain.”

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

 

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