Football - Champions League

Samaras: It's time Celtic reached group stage

Georgios Samaras says it is time Celtic reclaimed their place at the top table of European football ahead of Tuesday's Champions League play-off against Helsingborgs.

Celtic 'should reach CL' - Football - Champions LeaguePA Sport

Samaras is confident the Scottish champions can qualify for the group stage of the tournament for the first time since 2008/09 - and the first time under manager Neil Lennon - ahead of the first leg in Sweden.

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."

He added: "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."

 - Eurosport
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