Benfica, Celtic prepare for Lisbon meeting

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Celtic face Benfica in the Champions league in Lisbon on Wednesday.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:37 IST
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Benfica go into Wednesday's clash with Celtic needing a victory to keep their Champions League hopes alive. The Portuguese giants, who reached the quarter-finals in last season's competition, have failed to score in their three Group F games so far. Two weeks ago, they were comprehensively beaten 3-0 at Celtic Park but coach Fernando Santos believes his team have learnt lessons from that defeat. And after seeing his side score 13 goals in their last four league games, Fernando Santos is in confident mood and has called for the supporters' backing as they seek their first win of the group stages. "We think that we have the conditions to achieve what we want. We are going to have two more games at home, and if we win these games, we will have the conditions to give our best in Manchester, with great concentration and determination, with joy and confidence of the players. It gives me great satisfaction and confidence to achieve our main goal, win the game and do what all our fans want, that is achieve the eighth-finals," said Fernando Santos, Benfica coach. Much has been made of the way their fast-paced game overwhelmed Benfica two weeks ago but coach Gordon Strachan does not see that as his side's main feature. "If they play fast, I can't ask them to go slow. It's a tempo they set, the players, the standard they set. And we put them out there and they just go out and enjoy the game," said Gordon Strachan, Celtic coach. The Estadio da Luz hosted Celtic's greatest ever triumph when they beat Internazionale 2-1 in the 1967 European Cup final to become the first British team to win the trophy. With seven of the legendary 'Lisbon Lions' coming to watch the current side hopefully secure another victory, emotions are sure to run high but Strachan believes his men will be able to concentrate fully on the game. "We're trying to stay focused on that. If you're talking about emotion, well, we could have easily lost ourselves in the emotion that was before the game at Celtic Park that was an emotional night before the game even kicked off and they handled that OK, So I'm hoping they can handle it the same way," said Strachan. After being handed a tough group, few gave Celtic a chance of reaching the last 16. However, the squad has always had the belief that they could progress and a point on Wednesday would help them no end. "You know, I'm always optimistic and I'm always positive about the team and that and I thought that we were capable of maybe going through the group," said Neil Lennon, Celtic captain. Celtic have never won an away game in the revamped version of Europe's elite club competition but are on the verge of reaching the knockout stages for the first time. They are currently five points clear of their Portuguese rivals and an FC Copenhagen side beaten 3-0 two weeks ago at group leaders Manchester United. Benfica can close that gap to just two points with victory but if Celtic win, and the Danish side fail to beat United in the group's other game, the Scottish champions will be assured of a place in the last 16. (AP)