Stokes: Atletico tie will be tough
Celtic striker Anthony Stokes believes that tomorrow's UEFA Europa League game against Atletico Madrid represents a golden opportunity for the Hoops to show they have turned the corner after an indifferent start to the season.
The Glasgow side have won four straight matches in the Scottish Premier League to cut Rangers' lead at the top from 12 to four points, and in so doing have reignited their title aspirations.
But Neil Lennon's side can ill-afford defeat against Atletico at Parkhead if they want to stay alive in Europe this season.
Celtic are third in Group I with five points from four matches - two fewer than both Atletico and Udinese - and a loss would spell the end of their European campaign should Udinese secure victory against Rennes in the group's other match.
Stokes, who has 11 goals to his name this season, said: "It's going to be a very tough game against a top-class side, but it's a game we're looking forward to. It's the best team we'll have played in a long, long time - it will be interesting to see what happens."
Atletico beat Celtic 2-0 in the reverse fixture at the Vicente Calderon in September, but the Spaniards have been a model of inconsistency this season and suffered a 4-1 defeat at the hands of cross-city rivals Real over the weekend.
On his team's stuttering start to the campaign, Stokes said, "Early on in the season we had a bad spell. I think we've come out of that now and we've shown what we can really do.
"I think we've improved a little bit, we've tightened up at the back - we're not conceding as many goals lately it doesn't seem - and it's paying dividends. We want to keep on this run, keep winning games and keep the momentum going."