Lennon focuses on matters on the field despite trials off it

Midfielder to concentrate on helping Celtic begin group campaign with win at Bayern Munich tonight
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The Independent Online

Neil Lennon said he will put his off-field worries to one side to concentrate on tonight's Champions' League game against Bayern Munich.

Celtic's former Northern Ireland international was due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court tomorrow to give evidence against two men accused of attacking him in the city's West End in May. However, both men have pleaded guilty, so he no longer has to appear in court hours after returning from Germany.

Despite being able to put that case behind him, Lennon faces more worries following an alleged hand gesture during Saturday's win over Dundee. He has been called to explain his actions before the Scottish Football Association and could face a ban, but Lennon said he is determined to concentrate only on football.

"I don't have to go to court now to give evidence," he said. "That is a big weight off my mind and it means that I can concentrate solely on my football this week. Regarding the other stuff from the weekend, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. I was rash in what I did, but all I want to do now is concentrate on my football because this is a big week for us."

Celtic reached the Uefa Cup final last season after being knocked out of the Champions' League at the qualifying stage by the Swiss underdogs, FC Basle. This time they have earned the chance to face some of the leading teams in Europe after progressing past Kaunas and MTK Hungaria.

The campaign starts tonight when they take on Bayern Munich. Celtic, however, have been plagued by problems ahead of their trip to Munich with Paul Lambert, Stephen Crainey and the Danish defender Ulrik Laursen all sustaining injuries over the past fortnight.

The Sweden captain, Johan Mjallby, and the English winger Steve Guppy are long-term injuries but the striker Chris Sutton could start in a midfield role after serving a five-match domestic suspension.

The Belgium defender Joos Valgaeren could also feature after recovering from a recent hamstring injury, while the on-loan Sunderland defender Michael Gray is waiting to make his Celtic debut.

Bayern open their campaign with worries that a nervous defence might hurt their attempt to bounce back in Europe. The four-times European champions aim to make up for their embarrassing first-stage exit last year but their recent league form suggests they might struggle again.

"We need more stability in our game, particularly at the back. Celtic are a top team and we have to be extremely careful," their goalkeeper and captain, Oliver Kahn, said after the German champions conceded their first defeat of the season by losing 3-2 at VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday.

The only positive thing to emerge from the match was Roy Makaay scoring his first goal since joining Bayern from Deportivo La Coruña.

The Bayern coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, has selection problems with the midfielders Jens Jeremies and Sebastian Deisler both injured.

However, there was some good news for Hitzfeld on Monday when Michael Ballack and the Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro, who missed the Wolfsburg game because of injuries, were both able to train normally and should play tonight.

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