Celtic boss Neil Lennon backs Scottish sides' Europa League final hopes

By Stefan Bienkowski BBC Sport Scotland
Celtic celebrate
Celtic beat Lazio home and away en route to the Europa League last 32

A Scottish club can reach the final of the Europa League again, says Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

His team will face Danes Copenhagen in the last 32 of the competition while Rangers take on Portugal's Braga.

Lennon, 48, was a beaten finalist as Celtic faced Porto in 2003 when it was the Uefa Cup before Rangers lost to Zenit St Petersburg in the 2008 final.

"Yes, no doubt about it," said Lennon when asked if a Scottish side could again reach the final.

"Why not? We had great success in the last decade in 2003 and 2008 so I think these things can come round again. I'm hoping it will be us one day."

Although no Scottish club has reached a European final since Rangers lost to Zenit, the Celtic manager is adamant his squad have the talent to continue causing "damage" in the competition, having finished top of a group that featured Lazio, Rennes and CFR Cluj.

Cluj boss Dan Petrescu said last week Celtic could go all the way in the tournament.

"I think it's too early for that," said Lennon. "Obviously, if we can make inroads in the competition then I think it's important for player development, the club and for me to develop as a coach as well. Europe is always a huge arena to play in.

"We'll try and do our best and can we make it to the quarter-finals and take it from there? That's when you start getting really, really excited about it but it's too early to say about getting to the final.

"If you see the calibre of team that are still in the 32 then there are a number of big clubs above us."

"We've made the most of the Europa League so far. Looking at the squad at the start of this campaign I felt we could certainly do a little bit of damage in the competition. We've done that until now but it's still a long way to go obviously. I'm absolutely thrilled with the way we've negotiated the group."

Meanwhile, former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner will not face Celtic after Copenhagen confirmed the 31-year-old Denmark international will be released when his short-term contract expires at the end of the year.

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