Celtic boss Lennon aims high
© Getty Images

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has challenged his side to mark their return to the UEFA Champions League by winning their group after they were drawn Thursday alongside European giants Barcelona.

Lennon accepts the Spanish side are favourites to top a Group G also featuring Benfica and Spartak Moscow and indeed win the tournament.

But he is keen to make sure the Scottish champions are not over-awed by the prospect of mixing with European football's elite for the first time since 2008/09, a place they secured with a 2-0 home win over Swedish club Helsinborg on Wednesday that led to a 4-0 aggregate victory.

Asked at Celtic's training ground if his main aim was to finish third in the group and at least ensure Europa League football after Christmas, former Hoops captain Lennon said: "No. Win it. It is maybe unrealistic but why do you want to finish third? I think Barcelona are favourites or joint favourites [to win the tournament].

We have to improve our away record in the Champions League if we can to give ourselves any chance of getting through the group.
Celtic boss Neil Lennon

"How do you play against them? Well you can watch them as much as you like but they currently have some of the best individuals of all time," he said. "I think Benfica will be strong, I think Moscow will be strong, they have got financial clout behind them but anything can happen in the group stages, particularly if we can start the group well and maximise the home advantage.

"It [Europa League] would be worst case scenario, but if you finish first or second you get into the last 16. Let's not get carried away, let's see what fixtures are coming up.

"We have to improve our away record in the Champions League if we can to give ourselves any chance of getting through the group, maximise the home games but looking at the three teams it is going to be a difficult thing to do.

"It is where we want to be. It is what we worked so hard for," he said. "We are in it, it is fantastic to be here and we are going to make the most of it and enjoy it."