Callum McGregor, the Celtic midfielder, has applauded Neil Lennon’s bravery on a European front as the Parkhead side prepare for the knockout phase of the Europa League.

Seen, unfairly, as the cheap option this summer, Lennon’s results on a European front have done more than just silence any of his dissenters.

For the first time, Celtic have qualified for the latter stages of the Europa League with two games to spare and have clocked up a few compelling footnotes along the way, least of all their wins against Lazio, of which one provided their first success on Italian soil.

Comparing Lennon with his predecessor, Brendan Rodgers, in that respect seems a bit unfair; the Champions League remains of a significantly higher standard that the Europa League but, still, there has been sufficient evidence to suggest that Celtic have matured as a team on a continental front.

McGregor has applauded Lennon’s courage and belief in the team for the manner in which he has set his stall out this term in Europe’s second-tier tournament. The Scotland internationalist, pivotal now to the Parkhead side’s midfield, has acknowledged the way in which repeated exposure to European football has lent Celtic a more streetwise edge.

“He could be [bolder than Rodgers]. You see with results," he said. "We went to Lazio and I think people hoped rather than had any expectation but when you deliver a result like that it changes everyone’s mindset.

“That's what we have to do now as a team in Europe. We have been great domestically and that is still our bread and butter, we still have to look after that, but I think in Europe now we probably have enough experience where we can really go and try to do something.

“We have two games now to finish top and that is where we really want to be, then hopefully we get a good draw and we take it from there.”

If Lennon’s shining moment as Celtic manager was engineering a win over an all-conquering Barcelona side back in 2012, he is not without a few memorable nights under the floodlights as a player.

Instrumental within the central pastures during Martin O’Neill’s era at the club which re-established Celtic’s reputation on a European front, the most notable of which was a run to the UEFA Cup final, McGregor appreciates the manner in which Lennon has taken lessons from his own playing days into the modern game.

“He builds similar teams when he is at the helm,” he said. “I think now you can say there are certain similarities there – there is pace on the counter attack, good mindset in the middle where you are not giving away too many balls and then when you are going forward we have that front three who can really hurt teams – James [Forrest], [Ryan Christie], Tom [Rogic], Oli [Ntcham], the list goes on.”

And Lennon’s tutelage and experience has been key to Celtic’s current vantage point at the top of the group, according to McGregor.

“He is brilliant,” enthused the midfielder. “You hear him talking all the time. Obviously we know the European games are different games, you have slightly less of the ball.

“But you hear him talking about how we must still always have a threat, we have to try and score. When you score, especially away from home now, it puts you in a really good position to win the game.

“It’s a bit of that. You can defend without the ball but you still have to have an avenue to score a goal. Once you score a goal it changes the whole dynamic of the game. So, I think that side of it he seems to be really clued up about.”

Celtic host Rennes tomorrow evening as they look to consolidate top spot. Finishing the group as winners makes a difference when it comes to the February knockout games with Celtic standing far more of a chance if they can avoid those who will parachute out of the Champions League.

As such, tomorrow’s game carries weight regardless of the fact Celtic know they can hang on to their passports into the new year.

“We want to qualify top of the group as well,” said McGregor. “We have learned harsh lessons in the last couple of years when we have managed to get through but you finish second and then get a Champions League team, which obviously makes it difficult in the last 32.

“If you try and quality top then it’s that playing equal opponents thing. It is big for us. We know we have to finish the job. We have two games to finish top. That’s where we want to be.”