Celtic draw inspiration from cup run
Thursday 26 February 2004
Martin O'Neill has challenged his Celtic side to use the memory of last season's bitter Uefa Cup final disappointment in Seville to inspire another attempt to secure the trophy.
Celtic saw the silverware slip through their fingers when Porto beat them in extra time, but after being parachuted back into this season's competition from the Champions' League, the manager wants to go one better.
But O'Neill has told his side to ignore the fact that tonight's opponents, FK Teplice, do not possess the glamour of some of the visitors to Parkhead last season. The Czech Republic team have already beaten Feyenoord and Kaiserslautern.
"Any side that has knocked out Kaiserslautern and Feyenoord deserves respect," O'Neill said. "They have earned the right to be here. The Uefa Cup run last season gave us confidence but it has also made us aware of the need to focus. Boavista were not as strong a side as Vigo, Stuttgart or Liverpool but we could still have lost that semi-final. But there is definitely a bond among the lads now.
"We are a million miles from this season's final in Gothenburg but the thoughts of Seville do drive us on. We would love to go back to the final. We have a spirit here but I think it has been heightened by last year's experiences."
O'Neill will be without Shaun Maloney, who damaged knee ligaments on Monday, and Neil Lennon, who is suspended following his verbal assault on the referee Urs Meier in Lyon in December. Celtic felt that Meier cost them a place in the last 16 with his controversial late penalty award.
Alan Thompson missed that match because of suspension. The midfielder echoed O'Neill. "Seville was painful because we went so close," Thompson said. "However, it was still a career highlight. Look at the nights we had en route to Seville. We would all love to have that again. It does lift us for this one to try and achieve those highs again. We know as players how rewarding the Uefa Cup final can be."
Celtic (probable 3-5-2): Douglas; Varga, Balde, McNamara; Agathe, Lambert, Petrov, Pearson, Thompson; Larsson, Sutton.
FK Teplice (possible 4-4-2): Potgulka; Leitner, Rada, Kolar, Hunal; Tesarik, Horvath, Skala, Kuchar; Verbir, Divecky.
Referee: K Lautz (Austria).
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