Champions League – Celtic target improbable comeback

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Neil Lennon reckons the Celtic Park atmosphere can inspire his team to overturn a three-goal deficit in their Champions League third qualifying round tie with Braga tonight (kick-off 7.45pm).

Celtic lost 3-0 in Portugal last week but Lennon will doubtless tell his players of the impact a vociferous crowd can have, and remind them of the great European comebacks to have occurred over the years.

Celtic are 25/1 to achieve the unthinkable and win the return leg at Celtic Park 4-0. They can of course also go through if they finish 90 minutes 3-0 up (16/1) and either score in extra-time or triumph on penalties.

“The fans are huge on these Champions League nights,” Lennon said. “They bring an energy that gives you a lift as soon as you walk out on the pitch. That backing just elevates your performance.”

Celtic have actually managed a four-goal winning margin in a Champions League tie at home before, beating MFK Petrzalka 4-0 in 2005/06. That wasn’t quite monumental enough to wipe out a 5-0 first leg defeat, however, but the precedent is there.

The only time a three-goal first-leg defeat has been overturned in Europe’s premier competition was when Deportivo La Coruna beat AC Milan 4-0 in Spain, to win their quarter-final in the 2003/04 tournament 5-4 on aggregate.

If a similar comeback is to happen tonight, new boys Gary Hooper (5/1 to score first), Efrain Juarez (18/1), Cha Du-ri (10/1), Daryl Murphy (8/1) and Joe Ledley (10/1) will need to mark their Celtic Park debuts with performances to remember.

Hooper, a £2.4million signing from Scunthorpe United, is confident Celtic have a chance. “We can definitely do it,” he said. “If we get in their faces and press them high up the pitch, we will score the goals.”

Winger Aiden McGeady won’t play in the match because his head is “all over the place” following transfer talks with Spartak Moscow. “I don’t think I can possibly start him against Braga,” said Lennon.

Celtic came from 2-0 down against Lyon at the weekend to draw and almost did the same in their match with Arsenal when three goals behind, falling short at 3-2. The Hoops are 4/5 to win the game, with Braga a 13/5 shot to reign victorious in Glasgow.

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