Celtic aim for top spot in SPL aafter Euro heroics

Hoops to focus on the domestic front, with tough fixture likely against Dundee United

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 5:50am


Celtic will need to put the drama of their midweek qualification for the Champions League to one side as they prepare to take on Dundee United in the Scottish Premiership today.

The Hoops players were elated as a last-gasp strike from James Forrest on Wednesday booked their place in the lucrative group stage of Europe's elite competition following a 3-2 aggregate win over Shakhter Karagandy.

Celtic have been drawn in a difficult group, which includes fellow former winners of the European Cup Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax.

However, Neil Lennon knows his side can't afford to let their minds wander to these glamour ties and must again concentrate on domestic matters.

The Hoops lie in second place in the Scottish Premiership after being held to a 2-2 draw by league leaders Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Parkhead last weekend.

Today they will face a Dundee United side that have now won two games back-to-back after a slow start to their season.

But Lennon might have two new players to bolster his squad after he revealed he was close to taking Israeli midfielder Nir Biton and Finnish striker Teemu Pukki to Celtic Park.

"Players coming in and going out will take care of itself over the next few days," Lennon said.

"The carrot of the Champions League might be a bigger draw for a lot of players now. In terms of attracting players, the quality players we are looking for, it's been a really difficult summer.

"We are in the Champions League again though and it adds to the reputation of the club.

"I think it puts us in an excellent position, but they will have to play well to get into that team."

His goalkeeper, Fraser Forster, is hoping to emulate the achievements of last season when he was an integral part of the Celtic side that won the league, Scottish Cup and reached the last 16 of the Champions League.

"It will be a fantastic opportunity again to test ourselves against the best players in the world, which is something we all want to do," said Forster, who was recalled to the England squad for the up-coming World Cup qualifiers.

"Every season seems to be big and I just need to keep myself going. We had a fantastic year last season. We have lost a few players since then, but it has been key for us to get in the Champions League again and it keeps everyone moving forward."

Elsewhere, top-of-the-table Inverness Caledonian Thistle face a tough task to keep their unbeaten run intact.

They host Hearts, who would be second in the table if it weren't for the 15-point deduction with which they started the season as punishment for entering administration in the summer.