CELTIC's chances of making it past Juventus and into the Champions League quarter-finals will stand or fall on the result they pull off in the first leg at Parkhead, according to manager Neil Lennon.
The Serie A defending champions and current leaders visit Glasgow on February 12, before the return leg in Turin on March 6. Celtic were guaranteed to face an away second leg because they were unseeded in yesterday's draw at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, but Lennon was positive about the draw, saying it was the most excited he had felt since becoming manager of Celtic two-and-a-half years ago.
Italian World Cup winners Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon and current national striker Sebastian Giovinco are among the stars of Antonio Conte's team, who finished unbeaten and top of Champions League Group E, having won their home game against Chelsea 3-0. They are seven points clear in Serie A, having lost only twice in 17 games.
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Lennon was asked if he suspected the two-time European champions would be happy to have been paired with his own team, given that Celtic are the outsiders of the last 16. "I think they will be really respectful of us but, behind closed doors, they will fancy it. Do we fancy it? Over two games anything can happen.
"The first game will be pivotal in terms of getting any sort of result. But what I do feel is that we are capable of scoring away from home. We have proved that in all the games this season.
"Would 0-0 at home be a good result for us? The way we are playing away from home I don't see why not. But we will need to play better than what we did in Benfica [a 2-1 defeat]. If we can match what we did in Moscow [a 3-2 win v Spartak] and the Nou Camp [a narrow 2-1 defeat] then we should be okay. I think this Juventus team are formidable."
Lennon was a player when Celtic last faced Juventus, in the 2001-2 Champions League group stage. They delivered a stunning 4-3 home win in the final group match but were still eliminated behind Juve and Porto, partly because of a highly controversial penalty decision in the opening group game in Turin. They were three minutes from a draw in Italy when Juventus striker Nicola Amoruso dived to secure a penalty, which was scored for a 3-2 win.