Neil Lennon says Brendan Rodgers will be feeling pressure of Celtic's Champions League play-off

Former Bolton manager Neil Lennon before the match

The former Hoops boss says the build-up to the games is "awful" and rivals that of the pressure of Old Firm meetings.

Bolton Wanderers manager Neil Lennon

Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon has told BBC Scotland that Brendan Rodgers will be feeling the "awful" intense pressure of the Champions League play-offs ahead of the first leg against Hapoel Be'er Sheva on Wednesday.

The Hoops face the Israeli side at Celtic Park in what has been described by many, including Lennon, as their biggest game of their season outside the Old Firm.

Celtic saw off Astana in the third qualifying round thanks to an injury-time penalty from Moussa Dembele in the second leg, and they now face arguably an even bigger test.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers

The importance of reaching the Champions League group stage to the club is clear, and that naturally intense pressure in the build-up.

Former manager Lennon has first-hand experience of that pressure, which he described as "awful", and he revealed that he has told Rodgers that the matches are the biggest that the new manager will face all season.

Lennon told BBC Scotland: "I think Brendan knows what's at stake. It sets the whole season up brilliantly. I have spoken to him about it personally. I said, 'Look, these are your biggest games of the season'.

Bolton Wanderers manager Neil Lennon

"The build-up is awful - it's just like a Celtic-Rangers game. But once the game's underway, it's great. They are awful to negotiate. You don't know who you're going to get, you don't know if the players are ready yet.

"I think the Celtic players are up to speed now, judging by the performances of late. I think Celtic will need to take something from Glasgow to there to protect because I think they're a good side at home."

As alluded to by Lennon, one of the biggest challenges that Rodgers and his side will face in this round is the fact that they play the first leg at home for the first time in this season's competition, after enjoying home comforts in the second leg in each of the last two ties.

Hapoel have already beaten Champions League regulars Olympiacos in the competition's qualifying stages, and Celtic will be braced for a huge battle to reach the promised land.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers

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