STADE RENNAIS manager Julien Stephan believes that Celtic have improved under Neil Lennon and are favourites to qualify from their Europa League group along with Italian giants Lazio.

Stephan, speaking ahead of the opening group game between his side and the Scottish champions at the Roazhon Park this evening, singled out Celtic’s attacking players as a major threat to his team, praising their technical ability.

The French outfit made it to the round of 16 in last season’s tournament before losing out narrowly to Arsenal, but Stephan says that Celtic will pose a formidable challenge for his players.

“I do believe that Celtic is also one of the favourites,” Stephan said. “As far as experience goes, for instance, they should be able to perform well, maybe just behind Lazio.

“This is a totally different group from last year. We think it’s a stronger team. They are used to winning their national championship very regularly, every year almost.

“It’s a very big team with lots of experience at our level, and they have many international players. They can play in the air and they are very technical, with (Callum) McGregor, (Ryan) Christie, (James) Forrest and (Odsonne) Edouard just to mention a few.

“This is a well-balanced team. We know it’s going to be difficult, but we are very lucky to be playing at home and the supporters are going to have a big role in a possible win.”

Stephan is looking forward to seeing the atmosphere that will be created by both sets of supporters, with Celtic being able to count on the backing of 1380 of their fans in the impressive 29,778-seater arena in Rennes.

“I am sure that [the fans] will be very strong tomorrow,” he said. “They have proved in past when they have to step up, they have done it.

“There will be lot of noise. The Celtic supporters will be noisy. All this will help to improve the atmosphere in the stadium.”

Stephan is still waiting to see if star striker M’Baye Niang will recover from a knee injury in time to make the game, giving the Senegalese star as long as possible to prove his fitness.

“We will see on a daily basis how players evolve,” he said. “We are still not sure about M’Baye but there are no further injuries.”