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Champions League preview: Celtic v Juventus

Celtic will be the underdogs when they host Juventus in the Champions League round of 16 on Tuesday, but that will not faze Neil Lennon’s men.

Although the decline in the quality of Scottish football has been marked in recent years, Celtic and their Old Firm rivals Rangers have both enjoyed some success on the continental stage in the last decade.

In 2002/03, Celtic made it all the way to the UEFA Cup Final, where they lost 3-2 in an epic struggle against Jose Mourinho’s Porto side – with Lennon starting in midfield for the Hoops.

The quality of that performance in Seville should not be underestimated, given Mourinho’s team were only 12 months away from Champions League glory.

Celtic have always punched well above their weight in European football, famously becoming the first British team to lift the European Cup in 1967 with a 2-1 win over Inter Milan in Lisbon.

The Glasgow giants are already responsible for the upset of the Champions League so far, when they accounted for Barcelona 2-1 at Parkhead in November – meaning Juventus should be prepared for a difficult encounter and an intimidating atmosphere at Celtic Park for the first leg.

Of course, the reigning Serie A title holders and two-time European champions should have the edge on the park, with the midfield class of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba providing service for the likes of Fabio Quagliarella, Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic up front.

But Celtic have impressed this season, with Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama drawing plenty of transfer interest from south of the border, and Englishman Gary Hooper in excellent form in front of goal with 13 Scottish Premier League strikes to his name.

Both sides head into the clash in winning form, with Celtic fielding a virtual B-team in their 3-1 win over Inverness on Saturday – which sent them 18 points clear on top of the SPL – while Juve stayed five points clear on top of Serie A thanks to a 2-0 triumph over Fiorentina.

Whatever happens at Parkhead on Tuesday, it is sure to be another magical European night in the east end of Glasgow almost 60,000 fans cram into Celtic Park to see their side’s first appearance in the Champions League knockout stages since 2007/08.

Mon 11 February, 2013
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