NEIL LENNON has fired a warning to Champions League conquerors Cluj ahead of tomorrow night’s Europa League Group E encounter at Parkhead.
The Romanians are the only team to beat the Hoops in this campaign and they managed that feat in sensational circumstances with a 4-3 triumph in the east end of Glasgow where the home side spectacularly shot themselves in the foot.
After the 1-1 first leg draw on their travels, a goalless draw would have seen the Scots go through to the play-off stages against Slavia Prague. They twice led on the night against Cluj and still contrived to lose and toppled out of Europe’s premier competition.
BOOM…Kristoffer Ajer bursts with elation after a strike from Odsonne Edouard.
However, Lennon insisted his team are “in a better place” since their remarkable flop in August and are well equipped for a second quickfire meeting with Dan Petrescu’s side.
The Irishman saw his players control large chunks of their first section game in France against Rennes almost a fortnight ago where they drew 1-1 after completing the confrontation with 10 men following the bizarre ordering-off of Vakoun Issouf Bayo who had come on as a late substitute for Odsonne Edouard.
The powerful Ivorian frontman is banned from tomorrow’s game, but Lennon, speaking to Sky Sports News, said: “We have good belief about ourselves now.
“There is decent cohesion and understanding and, of course, players have got a lot of match rhythm and game time and a familiarity with the way we play.
“In that respect, we are in a better place now maybe than we were then. There is a new back four, more or less, a new goalkeeper and we have been on a good run since then, more or less won every game apart from the weekend.
“I have been delighted with the reaction and style of play and the motivation that the players have.
“Our first-half performance against Cluj wasn’t up to the usual standards, so we need to address that.”
GLOOM…Callum McGregor applauds the fans at the end as his crestfallen team-mates troop off.
The Hoops’ defeat to the Romanian champions, who lost home and away to Slavia in the play-off, is their only loss in 18 matches this season.
Lennon, stressing the importance of remaining disciplined and focused, added: “We know it was a game that got away from us and there is always an opportunity in football maybe to right a wrong, if you want to put it that way.
“Maybe a little bit of motivation for the players, but the motivation is we have started the group well.
“We are at home and it is important to try and reinforce the home advantage when you can. You can use it as motivation as long as the players don’t get too emotional.
“We are looking forward to the game. It is the first home game in the group stage and we are very excited about it.”