sport

Lustig: CL doubters silenced

Mikael Lustig is pleased to have silenced Swedish naysayers who doubted Celtic's Champions League credentials after their win over Helsingborg.

The Swede revealed many of his countrymen were less than impressed by Neil Lennon's side in the first leg of their play-off despite the visitors to Helsingborg emerging with a 2-0 lead that they doubled in the return at Parkhead.

The Scottish champions went on to qualify from Group G as runners-up to Barcelona following an impressive campaign which included a famous win over the Catalan giants, and are now looking forward to next Thursday's last-16 draw.

Lustig, who is hoping to see Celtic paired with boyhood favourites Juventus, was at Celtic Park to preview Saturday's Scottish Premier League clash with St Mirren but he looked back with satisfaction at the way the club's European sceptics had been silenced.

He said: "(The reaction in Sweden to us qualifying) has been quite massive.

"When we reached the Champions League a lot of the media in Sweden said that Celtic is probably the team that shouldn't be in the Champions League because they saw the first leg against Helsingborg and they weren't much impressed with that.

"Over two legs I think we were the stronger team but the first half in Helsingborg was really bad.

"Now they have seen that we are a really good team and work good together."

Asked about his childhood passion for Juve, the 26-year-old full-back added: "I was a big Juventus fan when I was growing up but I don't know why.

"I don't think they are going to win the Champions League but they are obviously the best team in Italy right now and they should be disappointed if they don't reach the semi-final.

"We are going to be underdogs whoever we get, although on paper Malaga could be a good draw for us.

"We were probably underdogs in every group game and we handled that pressure quite well."

Lustig claimed to be unaware of reports that Russian outfit Rubin Kazan are preparing a January bid for him, but he believes most Celtic players would resist the temptation to move in January.

"I think every player will want to play in the last 16," he said.

"It has been a long journey to reach that goal and now we are here I think all of the players would like to stay."

Lennon is trying to get his players to re-focus on domestic chores with Celtic, despite being three points clear at the top of the SPL, looking for their first home league win since October 7.

Looking ahead to the match with St Mirren, Lustig said: "Of course you think a lot about Champions League games so now it is nice to focus on the SPL.

"We have struggled a little bit, especially at home. It is hard to say why but we have some problems when teams come here just to defend.

"We have to find the key to break them down but hopefully we can do that tomorrow."