ODSONNE EDOUARD is fired up and ready to blast Celtic into the Europa League play-off next week.

That’s the verdict of boss Neil Lennon as he prepares his players for tonight’s tricky qualifying hurdle against FC Riga in Latvia.

The club’s talisman was rested for the 3-2 victory over Livingston at Parkhead on Saturday after looking fatigued in the hard-fought midweek win over St Mirren in Paisley where he squandered a penalty-kick and was hooked before the end.

But the Hoops gaffer insists the 22-year-old French ace, who has been the subject of intense transfer speculation throughout the summer, is good to go for the confrontation with the Latvians.

Lennon, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “He has trained well the last couple of days and he’s looking forward to playing.

“He’s itching to play. To be fair, all of them are.

“We have a lot of games and, sometimes, you have to listen to where the player is coming from.

“He missed a couple of games, came back in and three games in a week might have been too much for him.

“We made the right decision. We won the game, he’s fresh and it sets us up nicely for this game.

“We are trying to keep it as fresh and as balanced as we can. If we can negotiate this, it’s Hibs at the weekend, then another Euro game, then St Johnstone after that, so it’s still a lot of games.”

Scotland’s title kings were knocked out of the Europa League at the last-32 stage last season by an FC Copenhagen side which was beaten in one leg of the qualifiers by Riga 12 months ago and :ennon added: “Defensively, they are pretty solid and have kept some clean sheets of late.

“They have a few Brazilians in their squad and a good physical striker, Kule Mbombo, who usually plays an hour and then they change it.

“They’ll be a tough nut to crack. They beat Copenhagen in this stadium at this stage last season, even though they lost over the two legs, so they deserve utmost respect.

“They are a good side and are well drilled with a little bit of flair, although nothing we haven’t seen before.

“We have come out of the Champions League which is a blow for us. European football is important to a club like Celtic every season, so this game is pivotal.

“To make the group stage of the Europa League stimulates your season, it stimulates your players and supporters.

“We’re treating this game very seriously. We’re away from home in Europe so we know that brings its own difficulties.

“It’s a one-off tie and we have to get everything right.”

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


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