Forster urges side to finish job with top spot
Champions League remains of a significantly higher standard than the Europa League but, still, there has been sufficient evidence to suggest Celtic have matured as a team on a continental front.
McGregor has applauded Lennon’s courage and belief in the team for the manner in which he has set out his stall this term in Europe’s second-tier tournament.
The Scotland internationalist, pivotal now to the Parkhead side’s midfield, has acknowledged the way repeated exposure to European football has lent Celtic a more streetwise edge.
“He could be [bolder than Rodgers]. You see with results,” he said. “We went to Lazio and I think people hoped rather than had any expectation, but when you deliver a result like that it changes everyone’s mindset.
“That’s what we have to do now as a team in Europe. We have been great domestically and that is still our bread and butter. We still have to look after that, but I think in Europe now we probably have enough experience where we can really go and try to do something.
“We have two games now to finish top and that is where we really want to be. Then hopefully we get a good draw and we take it from there.”
If Lennon’s shining moment as Celtic manager was engineering a win over an all-conquering Barcelona side back in 2012, he is not without a few memorable nights under the floodlights as a player.
Lennon was instrumental within the central pastures during Martin O’Neill’s era at the club that re-established Celtic’s reputation on a European front, the most notable of which was a run to the UEFA Cup final. And McGregor appreciates the manner in which Lennon has taken lessons from his own playing days into the modern game.
“He builds similar teams when he is at the helm,” he said. “I think now you can say there are certain similarities – there is pace on the counter-attack, good mindset in the middle where you are not giving away too many balls and then, when you are going forward, we have that front three who can really hurt teams – James [Forrest], [Ryan Christie], Tom [Rogic], Oli [Ntcham]… the list goes on.”
It is big for us. We know we have to finish the job. That’s where we want to be
And Lennon’s tutelage and experience has been key to Celtic’s current vantage point at the top of the group, according to McGregor.
“He is brilliant,” enthused the midfielder. “You hear him talking all the time. Obviously we know the European games are different games. You have slightly less of the ball.
“But you hear him talking about how we must still always have a threat, we have to try to score.
“Once you score a goal it changes the whole dynamic of the game.”
Celtic host Rennes tomorrow evening as they look to consolidate top spot.
Finishing the group as winners makes a difference when it comes to the February knockout games with Celtic standing far more of a chance if they can avoid those who will parachute out of the Champions League.
As such, tomorrow’s game carries weight regardless of the fact Celtic know they can hang on to their passports into the new year.
“We want to qualify top of the group as well,” said McGregor. “We have learned harsh lessons in the last couple of years when we have managed to get through but you finish second and then get a Champions League team, which obviously makes it difficult in the last 32.
“It is big for us. We know we have to finish the job. We have two games to finish top.
“That’s where we want to be.”
CELTIC goalkeeper Fraser Forster has urged Celtic to get the win against Rennes tomorrow night that would guarantee them top spot in their Europa League group.
A win against the whipping boys of Group E – Rennes have taken just one point from four games – would guarantee Celtic that first-place finish, critical in terms of being seeded in the draw for the knockout games which take place in February.
With an exacting domestic calendar in December, a Betfred Cup final against Rangers and a game to end the month against the Ibrox side, Forster has targeted another three points in order that full focus can be turned onto the home front.
Victory would also give Celtic their best ever return in a European league format.
“It’s just been fantastic so far,” said the keeper.
“From that first game against Rennes we’ve really delivered in the European matches.
“We’re in a fantastic position. Obviously now we just want to go out and win the group and finish it off well.
“It would be great of we could do that in our final home game and kind of park it until after Christmas.
“It’s been a fantastic run of games in the Europa League and some fantastic performances. If you’d said at the start that we were going to go out and beat Lazio twice, people probably wouldn’t have believed it.
“Just in the manner that we did as well made it extra special.
“I think we’ve done very well up until now but we want to finish the job now and win the group.”