THERE was a time not so long ago that a sickly feeling for Celtic fans when their team went abroad had nothing to do with the travelling involved. Under Neil Lennon though, those days are fast becoming a thing of the past.

The away-day blues that plagued the Scottish champions for so long on the continent was something that the Celtic manager knew he had to address when he took over the reins once more following Brendan Rodgers’ departure from the club. And hasn’t he just.

A European adventure that started in early July in Sarajevo, then weaved its way through Tallinn, Cluj, Stockholm and Rennes before pitching up in Rome on Thursday night has culminated in six matches without defeat on the road and, ultimately, a place in the last 32 of the Europa League with two games to spare.

With Celtic Park also seemingly returning to the fortress of old that was feared by visiting teams the length and breadth of the continent, it all bodes well going into the two-legged knockout phase of the tournament.

“We just wanted to make inroads in the group, and we’ve done that a lot quicker than I thought we would,” Lennon said. “To have qualified with two games still to go is brilliant.

“We wanted to maximise the home form. From my experience, as a player here and as a manager first time around, home form is really important. If you can get the crowd going early, it’s a huge fillip for you.

“But the away form has pleased me more than anything. At times, the way they have controlled games away from home for long periods has been brilliant. They have never looked like they were going to be overwhelmed.

“In the first 10-15 minutes on Thursday, we started slowly and gave Lazio the upper hand. But the more we got on the ball and started playing, you could see the players growing in confidence and starting to cause Lazio lots of problems.

“Our away record wasn’t great [in the past]. Our home record was fantastic when I played here.

“For us to be six unbeaten this season is fantastic, we’re getting the balance right more often away from home.

“At home we should be confident and now we’re a lot more confident going into games away from home as well. Obviously, the results give players a lot of belief as well in what they’re trying to do.”

So much belief, in fact, that last-gasp goalscoring hero Olivier Ntcham stated after the match that he feels Celtic can go on and win the trophy. Perhaps it was the adrenaline speaking, but in the cold light of day, Lennon was more cautious about their prospects when asked if he agreed with his midfielder’s assessment.

“No,” he said flatly. “We are in the last 32. I love to hear players talking like that, it’s a huge positive. But the last 32 doesn’t come around until February and that’s three months away.

“A lot of things can come and go before then - form, whatever. And you’ve got the January transfer window.

“So, we’ll take it one step at a time. I’m looking forward to the two remaining group games when we can be a bit more relaxed and maybe utilise some of the squad.

“Then we’ll look forward to what the draw brings. Hopefully we can top the group and that will give us a better chance - but you never know who you can get in the draw. I’m just delighted we are through, especially doing it with belief and purpose.

“That’s what we want to do [top the group]. I didn’t realise Lazio still have a very slim chance of qualifying if they win their last two games.

“So, I think they will be all out to beat Cluj, so if we can get something here against Rennes it might just about guarantee us top spot.”

With Rangers also putting a European big-gun to the sword on Thursday evening in the shape of Porto, Lennon is pleased to see respect as well as co-efficient points building up behind Scottish football again.

“It’s good for momentum and the credibility of the game,” he said. “Players who have left Scottish football in the last four or five years and gone down to England have excelled. You don’t listen to outsiders and people wanting to put the game down.

“When you’re in it you want to praise it and make the best of it. Both clubs are serving Scotland very well at the minute.”

After the euphoria in the eternal city comes the next step in the perpetual domestic grind, as Motherwell make the visit to Celtic Park on Sunday looking to bring their opponents back down to earth with a bump.

Lennon is wary that he may have to bring one or two of them down from cloud nine himself to ensure that their focus is fully on another crucial Premiership encounter, and he may look to bring in the likes of Leigh Griffiths, Jeremie Frimpong and Tom Rogic to freshen things up.

“We’ve got to get them down from [Thursday] night because we have an important game on Sunday against a very good side,” he said.

“The momentum can flip very quickly, but the players are aware of that.

“The feelgood factor and the confidence they will take from playing as well as they did against Lazio will stand them in good stead and we’ll have to think about what they put into the game in terms of recovery and fatigue.

“Rogic will come back into contention, so will Frimpong, Griffiths has had a few more days’ training and hopefully he will be closer up to speed as well.”