Samaras: Celtic ready for Champions League

Samaras: Celtic ready for Champions League

Georgios Samaras believes it is time Celtic took their place again at the top table of European club football.

The Hoops are in Sweden for the first leg of their Champions League play-off against Helsingborg tonight.

Samaras is confident the Scottish champions can qualify for the group stages for the first time since 2008/09 and the first time under manager Neil Lennon.

The Celtic striker said: "We are the same players and every month, every year, we are getting closer together and getting to know each other better so I think this is the moment to go to the highest level.

"We want to play at the top level and the Champions League is the highest level in European football.

"Europa League is European football but we did that last year and I think we were a bit unlucky not to go through.

"But I think our team is more mature now and ready to go to the highest level.

"We want to raise the bar a bit higher and the aim is to be in the group stages of the Champions League."

After beating Finnish champions HJK Helsinki home and away in the previous qualifier, Lennon, who is bracing himself to lose midfielder Ki Sung-yueng to Swansea, is confident his team can break through the glass ceiling and reach the group stages.

Lennon said: "We have been together two years and a lot of players know we haven't done as well as we maybe should have.

"We got through a tough tie in Helsinki and that will give the players a lot of confidence.

"They all want to play Champions League football but we have two difficult games to overcome before we can start talking about that."

Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins confirmed yesterday that the Welsh club has agreed a fee, reportedly between £5million and £6million, with the Parkhead club for the 23-year-old South Korean and personal terms are now being discussed.

Lennon believes the sale of Ki represents "good business" for the Parkhead club.

He said: "He has only 15 months left in his contract and we feel it is a good offer and good business on our side.

"It is unfortunate to lose a quality player but that has been our strategy at the club for the last two or three years, cultivate these players and eventually move them on if they want to go.

"We haven't got a set fee for any players but we feel the offer is one that is good for us."

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