Lennon’s backing for Celtic Park crunch tie

Neil Lennon believes Celtic Park would be the ideal venue for Scotland’s home European Championship qualifier against the Republic of Ireland — despite many of the visiting squad’s familiarity with the venue.

Lennon’s backing for Celtic Park crunch tie

Hampden could be unavailable for Scotland’s game against the Irish on November 14 as work to reopen the stadium following its temporary redevelopment for the Commonwealth Games will not be finished until late in the year.

Celtic Park and Ibrox are the only serious contenders to host the game with the 60,000 capacity at Parkhead — 10,000 more than Rangers’ stadium — giving it the edge for a match that is sure to be a sell-out.

The stadium is the former workplace of the Irish management team of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane and players such as Robbie Keane, Aiden McGeady and Daryl Murphy, while the squad contains current Hoops striker Anthony Stokes.

However, Lennon feels that familiarity will be cancelled out by the fact that O’Neill’s replacement as Celtic boss, Gordon Strachan, has a number of Hoops players in his squad.

When asked if staging the game at Parkhead might help the Republic of Ireland, the Celtic manager said: “It may do but it will be the same for Gordon and the Celtic boys he has.

“For me, the atmosphere might be better because it is a fantastic arena, with the fans closer to the pitch, which always helps the electricity in the stadium.”

Lennon played under both managers and feels the match-up will be an intriguing contest.

“It sets up a fascinating pair of games. Both sides will feel they have a fighting chance. I don’t think there is much between either squad in terms of quality,” he said.

For his part, Stokes insists the group is too close to call.

He said: “It’s a difficult group, as most of them are. But I’m sure we will be able to compete and I’m looking forward to it.

“Germany will be the firm favourites while Poland have a very strong squad, so it should be interesting. Every game will be important. It will be one of those groups that goes right to the wire.”

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