Hibs manager Neil Lennon has urged Celtic to embrace the Champions League group stages after insisting that they have negotiated the worst part.
Lennon, the last man to lead the Hoops into the four-team sections two years ago, was thrilled to see his former club come through a nerve-shredding play-off clash with Hapoel Be’er Sheva on Tuesday night to earn a windfall in excess of £25 million.
The Scottish champions will enter the group C as overwhelming underdogs after being drawn with Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach.
But Lennon, whose Celtic team were beaten at the last 16 stage by Juventus during the 2012/13 campaign, insists the low levels of expectation can work in Brendan Rodgers’ favour.
He said: “There is so much riding on qualification.
“The nerves surrounding Champions League play-off round is worse than any Old Firm game because of the amounts of money that are at stake.
“It sets up your whole season.
“You can recover from an Old Firm loss as you know you have another three to play.
“In terms of Champions League qualification, you can’t.
“Now that Celtic are there and they are guaranteed a huge amount of money, they can breathe again.
“You say to yourself that you can enjoy this now.
“Celtic are the fourth seed and the underdog in their group and if they outperform other teams, it is a huge bonus.”
Rangers returned to the top-flight this summer and will bid to stop Celtic making it six-in-a-row but Lennon admits the financial spoils from the Champions League will give Brendan Rodgers’ side a huge advantage.
He added: “The fact that Celtic have the Champions League money could create a bigger gap domestically but that is the way of the world.
“I think all the clubs will benefit from it. Rangers will grow over the next few years.
“They are still a bit behind Celtic at the minute.
“It also sets out whatever transfer fund you may or may not have or whatever the club wants to do in terms of investment.”