Neil Lennon hopes the return of key players will give Celtic European boost

• Under-strength Celtic need late goal to draw at Ross County
• Gary Hooper and others back for Champions League tie

Neil Lennon hopes the return of key players will edge Celtic towards a Champions League group place. The Celtic manager described elements of his side's play as "pedestrian" during Saturday's draw at Ross County. It took a 90th-minute Kris Commons goal to hand Celtic that point after Richard Brittain's stunning free-kick had put the Dingwall team in front.

By Lennon's own admission, Celtic were also flat when defeating Aberdeen 1-0 in their previous Scottish Premier League outing. The lack of domestic competition — namely Rangers' absence — may already, then, be having an impact at Celtic Park.

In Europe, Celtic travel to Helsingborgs for the first leg of their crucial Champions League play-off on Tuesday night. Scott Brown, Gary Hooper, Anthony Stokes and James Forrest were absent from the Celtic side on Saturday. Lennon is confident of having the quartet available for the trip to Sweden.

"You can tell, you miss that quality," Lennon said. "You're always going to suffer a little bit in front of goal. We had to change the shape of the team to the personnel that we had. In the end we just threw a few of the kids on and they did brilliantly. I was really pleased with that contribution. We got what we deserved – at least a point."

Lennon's subsequent claim that some of his players had been "going through the motions" hinted that Tuesday was prominent in their thoughts. "We weren't thinking about Helsingborgs," insisted Mikael Lustig, Celtic's Swedish defender. "The manager and the coaches made sure we were focused on County.

"Tuesday's game is different. It's the Champions League and you always dream about playing in that competition. Helsingborgs are pretty strong. They are on a really good run just now and have a lot of confidence. We are going to meet a very good team. Helsingborgs are better than Ross County."

Still, Celtic were content to be paired with Helsingborgs, who were seen as the weakest potential opposition in the play-off draw. "I don't think they expect to win but I've heard they are really pleased to get Celtic," Lustig added.

"We are a big club and Helsingborgs didn't want to travel somewhere like Croatia and Romania. They are quite pleased but they believe it will be a tough game as well. Helsingborgs see themselves as the underdogs and they have everything to aim for."

Man of the match Richard Brittain (Ross County)

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