Lennon says Celtic must improve
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Coach Neil Lennon says his Celtic side will need to show a drastic improvement if they are to progress further in this season's UEFA Champions League.

The Scottish champions took the first step on their long road to the lucrative group stage of Europe's elite competition when they comfortably eased past Northern Irish club Cliftonville 5-0 on aggregate, following a 2-0 win at Parkhead on Tuesday thanks to goals from Efe Ambrose and Georgios Samaras.

However, the Hoops will need to overcome much tougher opposition in the form of Elfsborg for a place in the play-off round of the competition. The Swedish champions, who won their second leg match against Latvians FC Daugave 4-0 to progress 11-1 on aggregate, will visit Celtic Park on 31 July for the first leg of their third round qualifying match.

Celtic saw off Swedish side HJK Helsingborg in last season's qualifiers and Lennon knows their next opponents will represent a big step up in class from the part-timers of Cliftonville. "We will have to be better," Lennon candidly admitted. "We will have to be better with our movement and crisper with our passing.

"In front of goal we will have to be a little more clinical. We had 30 attempts on goal so our shooting wasn't the best. We were a little bit rusty in that department but the back four are looking pretty good at the minute and that is another clean sheet.

"But we are where we are because of the timing of the games. A week is a long time in pre-season - it gives us time to recover. It's another game under their belts and then we will have some good work over the weekend in training. "The players know what is at stake.

"Judging from last season's game against Helsingborg it will be a big step up. "I'm going to have them watched at the weekend and we will try to cover everything we can between now and the game on Wednesday.

Dual importance
UEFA revealed this week that Celtic made €30 million from their run to the final 16 of last season's competition. And with Scottish football's finances in such a perilous state Lennon knows the riches of the Champions League are vital to the health of his club.

"I think the money is obviously imperative for us, and for any club really," the Celtic boss said. "But from a footballing point of view what the most important thing for me is the development of the players and the experience they get in bringing their reputation and careers on. The more successful you are in the competition the more money that will come in gate revenues, sponsorship and TV money.

"It is a fantastic competition and one that went well for us last year but there are no guarantees we will qualify this year. We know how important it is but I can't base our whole season on qualifying for the Champions League. I have to look beyond that as well."