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Lennon: I want Lazio tie to be remembered for right reasons

The Celtic boss hopes for a 'celebration of football' after a spate of racist incidents.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon hopes the Europa League match against Lazio at Celtic Park is a "celebration of football" and free from the ugly scenes that saw the Italian side forced to shut a section of their ground.

UEFA brought charges against Lazio for the racist behaviour of part of their support and have imposed a partial ground closure for the visit of the Scottish champions next month.

All eyes will be on the travelling fans in Glasgow on Thursday night but Lennon hoped the positive side of the game could take precedence and fans would leave having seen a game worth remembering.

He said: "I'm hoping tomorrow is a celebration of football between two great clubs.

"In the main I think Lazio have a great support. There are always a minority who want to overshadow the game and make noise for the wrong reasons and put a stain on the game.

"I'm hoping that's not going to be the case tomorrow night. I'm hoping that at the end of the game we're talking about a great atmosphere between two great sides, playing in a great game of football."

Lazio's ban is amongst a spate of racist incidents in the game recently, with England's Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria marred by abuse from the stands. Lennon said something had to be done to quell the rise and that players had to be protected.

"There's an underbelly now of racism not just in Italy but we're seeing it in Eastern Europe as well," he said. "We want to eradicate that as quickly as possible.

"I have a duty of care to my players and I want them protected. They're here to play football and it doesn't matter the colour of their skin or their background, they're here to play for Celtic.

"As far as we're concerned we're a club open to everybody.

"Mr Stein was right, football is nothing without the supporters. The most important people in football are the ones who play football and the ones who pay at the gate to come and support the team."

Celtic are top of Group G after two games, one ahead of the Serie A side and hoping to extend that advantage and boost their chances of making the knockout stages.

"I think it's a great game for all the fans to look forward to, and certainly the players," Lennon said.

"We've made a great start to the group, we're playing very well and off the back of a great victory at the weekend, the anticipation is building for this game.

"It's hopefully going to be one of those great European nights here at Celtic Park.

"It's a key game because it's the next one. The group is tight.

"Anything can happen and the group can turn very quickly either way. If we were to win it then fantastic but if we were to lose it wouldn't be a disaster but we're positive about things and we're hoping to get a positive result from the game."

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