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Scottish Champions Celtic will be looking to build on last year’s run to the knockout stages when they begin their Champions league campaign away to AC Milan.

Neil Lennon’s side came through the qualifying stages beating Elfsborg and Shakhtar Karagandy with their reward a difficult group that not only contains the 2007 winners Milan but also La Liga giants Barcelona and Dutch champions Ajax.

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Celtic’s will head into the game in good form. They have won their last three games and have lost just once in their opening 9 games in all competitions.

On Saturday they beat Hearts 3-1 and the signs are that the team are really starting to gel after the departure of a number of key players including last season’s top scorer Gary Hooper.

The performance against the Edinburgh side was very pleasing to Lennon and it left the Northern Irishman in no doubt that his side can complete in the group, with a place in the final 2 the target.

“It is a step up, but the players have the experience of last year,” said Lennon.

“They are international players, so it won’t faze them.

“The way we’re playing and the confidence in the squad, I think we can surprise a few people again.”

Finnish striker Celtic striker Teemu Pukki came off the bench to score on Saturday and the 23 year old, a deadline day replacement for Hooper, is hoping his debut goal leads to a first start in the San Siro.

“It is a big thing for me to play again in the Champions League,” said Pukki.

“Last year, I also played with Schalke but not as a starting player. So I’m hoping to play a lot of games in the Champions League.”

Celtic’s performance on Saturday was very pleasing to manager Neil Lennon and it left the Northern Irishman in no doubt that his side can complete against Barcelona, Ajax and Milan.

“It is a step up, but the players have the experience of last year,” said Lennon.

“They are international players, so it won’t faze them.

“The way we’re playing and the confidence in the squad, I think we can surprise a few people again.”

Celtic have lost on their last three visits to the San Siro, the most recent ending in a 1-0 defeat in 2008 however with Milan, who has made a slow start in Serie A this season winning just one of their opening three games, Lennon will be positive on his side’s chances of getting a result.

Those chances are set to increase further wiith the Rossoneiri set to be without the services of a host of key players including Stephan El Shaarawy, Riccardo Montolivo and Kaka while there are doubts over Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio, Matias Silvestre, Daniele Bonera and Giampaolo Pazzini and Andrea Poli

Antonio Nocerino and summer signing Alessandro Matri are pushing for recalls to the starting lineup and could feature.

Trevor Keane is an Irish based sports writer and the author of Gaffers, 50 years of Irish Managers and Running through Walls, the Dave Langan Story.