Scottish Premier League

Lennon's Euro frustration

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Wed, 17 Jul 2013 10:22:00

Neil Lennon says he is "baffled" by the fact his Celtic side have to play in a Champions League qualifier despite reaching the last 16 last season.

The Bhoys are currently in Belfast preparing for a Champions League second qualifying round first leg against Cliftonville on Wednesday evening.

The game comes just 53 days after their final game of last season, the 3-0 Scottish Cup final win over Hibernian, and just two weeks into their pre-season preparations.

Despite lifting their 44th SPL title last May, Lennon's men must begin their European adventure at this stage - one stage earlier than in 2012 - due to Scotland's position in UEFA's country ranking list.

It is all the more galling for the club given their memorable run to the knock-out stages of last season's competition, which included a famous win over Barcelona at Parkhead in November.

Lennon feels their exploits last campaign should be recognised by Europe's governing body with a later entry into this year's competition.

"I'm baffled that after beating Barcelona and reaching the last 16 we have an extra qualifier. It has to be looked at by UEFA," said the 42-year-old in the Daily Record.

"I don't think it's fair considering the season we had and the amount of games we played. We could be out by next week.

"We are champions of our country and reached the last 16 last season. There should be some dispensation for clubs who do well the previous season. It's really harsh we're playing so early."

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