Champions League: Celtic to face Barcelona, Benfica & Spartak

Celtic have been drawn to face Barcelona in Champions League Group G.

Neil Lennon's side, who beat Helsingborgs in the play-off round , will also face Portuguese side Benfica and Russia's Spartak Moscow.

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Anything can happen in the group stages, particularly if we start well

Celtic boss Neil Lennon

Former Celtic winger Aiden McGeady stars for Spartak while Barcelona and Benfica have faced the Glasgow side in previous Champions League campaigns.

Lennon said: "This is what we've worked so hard for. It's very, very exciting for us all."

The upcoming group stage campaign will be Lennon's first as a manager, having featured in several as a Celtic player.

Celtic have twice reached the last 16 of the Champions League, with their most recent knock-out appearance in season 2007/08.

On that occasion, Barcelona claimed a 4-2 aggregate win against Gordon Strachan's Celtic, who had earlier won at home and lost away against Benfica in the group stage and beaten Spartak Moscow on penalties in the final qualifying round.

The Scottish Premier League champions return to the group stages of Europe's most prestigious club competition for the first time in four years.

Celtic's Group G fixtures

  • Celtic v Benfica, 19 September
  • Spartak Moscow v Celtic, 2 October
  • Barcelona v Celtic, 23 October
  • Celtic v Barcelona, 7 November
  • Benfica v Celtic, 20 November
  • Celtic v Spartak Moscow, 5 December

And Lennon said he was relishing the prospect of facing Barcelona.

"I think Barcelona are favourites or joint favourites (to win the tournament)," he said.

"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.

"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.

"All the pressure was on the previous two rounds, now our supporters will take the view that it is great to be back and go and enjoy it and see where it takes us.

"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."