Neil Lennon wants his stars fit for Europe

 

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The Independent Online

The Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, admits that his team selection for today's trip to Inverness Caledonian Thistle will be based on making sure there is no mistake in next Wednesday night's Champions League play-off fixture with Helsingborg at Celtic Park.

Lennon confirmed that Joe Ledley is out for two weeks with a groin injury while fellow midfielder Beram Kayal could be out for a month with an ankle complaint. Daryl Murphy (hamstring), Dylan McGeouch (broken jaw) and Anthony Stokes (ankle) are already out and could be joined on the sidelines tomorrow by Thomas Rogne (ankle), Scott Brown (hip), Georgios Samaras (thigh) and Kris Commons (ankle) if Lennon believes that is what is needed to make sure they are available in midweek.

Celtic look to defend a 2-0 first- leg lead against the Swedes. Success would take them into the lucrative group stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2008-09. Lennon said yesterday: "The squad is a bit stretched again; there are a few bumps and bruises from Tuesday night [at Helsingborg] and we'll have to change the team a little bit. Rogne, Brown, Samaras and Commons are doubts. I wouldn't look at it that way [giving them the day off] but we want to have our best team on the pitch on Wednesday night and if that means we can't take a risk with them [at Inverness] we won't.

"Joe has a grade one groin injury and he will be out for a couple of weeks. Beram has had a reaction to his other ankle [from the one which was operated on] and he will be maybe three to four weeks.

"The injuries aren't majorly concerning, particularly Joe's injury. Joe has been one of the best signings since I came to the club, and so consistent, he is a big loss to us."

Despite his concern to have the best possible line-up available to face Helsingborg, Lennon denies that Celtic's quest to retain their Scottish Premier League title is taking a back seat this season.

"A lot of focus has been on these Champions League games and it is a concern that people think we are taking our eye off the ball domestically, but we are not," insisted the former Celtic captain.

"We are just trying to manage the squad as best we can for all these games."

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