THE prevailing theme of the return match between Celtic and Lazio this week seems to be one of revenge, with the Italians reportedly lusting after retribution both on and off the park for the apparent indignities they faced on their visit to Glasgow a fortnight ago.

Off the field, the 9000 or so Celtic fans making the trip to Rome have been warned to exercise caution and dispense with the green and white hoops that are normally the standard-issue uniform on their travels across the continent, after telling the fascist element among the visiting Lazio support where to go in no uncertain terms at Celtic Park.

After all, causing offence in the centre of a foreign city would hardly be cricket now, would it?

As for the football, the Lazio players will be rather more justifiably fired up to avenge the last-gasp defeat inflicted upon them by Neil Lennon’s men. Christopher Jullien’s late header and Fraser Forster’s even later wonder-save from Danilo Cataldi’s volley left their manager Simone Inzaghi with a pus like Mussolini’s granddaughter discussing the Green Brigade.

The extra motivation that the Lazio players may have to inflict Celtic’s first defeat of this Europa League group stage in the Stadio Olimpico isn’t lost on Hatem Elhamed, but the full-back is confident that whatever it is that separates the teams on Thursday night, it won’t be greater desire on the part of the hosts.

And, exhibiting the belief that is currently coursing through the veins of the Celtic players, he is certain they also have the ability to go to Italy and more than match their opponents in footballing terms too.

“After what happened in Glasgow, for sure they want to beat us,” Elhamed said. “But I think we are a very good team and we go there to get a good result.

“We have confidence. We feel that now we are a great team. If we win there, we will believe in ourselves even more. It could really be the beginning of something.

“Getting a point in Rennes gave us good confidence for the next game. We have won two games since then.

“I’m happy that we are top of this group and doing very well. We want to continue this. I hope on Thursday we come back with a good result.

“I think we are a very good team and we want to continue showing this.

“We should show what we show in every game and in every competition. I hope it will be okay.

“I’ve never played in Italy so it will be a new experience but one that will be good.

“These things are good as an individual, but I go with Celtic and we want to do a good job there as a team.”

Celtic have ridden the crest of a wave for so long now that it is perhaps only natural those from outside of the club seem to be eagerly awaiting the moment they eventually crash back to earth, but Elhamed sees no reason why they can’t ride it out for some time yet.

They are currently top of the Scottish Premiership, albeit by the slimmest of margins, top of Group E in the Europa League, and booked a Betfred Cup final showdown with Rangers with the spanking semi-final win over Hibernian at Hampden on Saturday.

While guarding against complacency, Elhamed sees no reason why the good times cannot continue to roll.

“I think we are in fantastic shape as a team,” he said. “Every individual is also in good shape and the quality is very high.

“We’re enjoying the moment and we want to keep it going.

“Saturday was the perfect preparation for Lazio which we can now focus on. It’s a big game and we want to go through in this group and into the next round.

“We want to get a good result there.”

No team can produce Celtic’s level of consistency through ability alone though, and Elhamed says there is also a steely element to their character which will mean they go into the lion’s den in Rome unfazed.

“This team doesn’t know when it’s beaten,” he said. “We have really good players who have great experience and very good character.

“We show this in every game. It’s not easy to play in Europe, get a fantastic win against Lazio and go back to domestic football and play fantastic again.”

And yet, for now, that is exactly what they are managing to do. On a personal level too, Elhamed’s own performances have far exceeded expectations based on the modest appraisals of his ability that came out of his homeland following the summer move from Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

In the three-way fight for the right-back position between himself, Stoke city loanee Moritz Bauer and the exciting youngster Jeremie Frimpong, it is the Israeli who has been trusted by his manager when the really big games have rolled around.

Perhaps that is why it is easy for him to be sanguine about his role in the squad, and perhaps even grateful for the chance of a regular breather.

“Every player wants to play as much as possible,” he said.

“But there’s a coach who picks a team and you have to respect that. When you have your chance, you have to prove yourself and to play well.”