FORMER Arsenal and Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone believes Celtic will follow his lead and shut FC Copenhagen out in the Europa League showdown.

Celtic face the Danes in the Last 32 clash, but Stale Solbakken's side are reeling after losing 1-0 on Friday in their return from their winter break to relegation-threatened Esbjerg.

Italian keeper Mannone made his debut for Esbjerg on Friday and having studied both teams, insists Celtic will be too strong for Copenhagen.

Mannone said: "It will be a tough game for Celtic because Copenhagen is one of the best teams in Denmark. But Celtic are a strong side.

“I fancy Celtic to go through. Listen, the European games are always tough. I played in the Champions League and the level always goes up in these games.

"The Europa League is the same. At home or away, you can't make any mistakes or you'll be punished.

"And the first leg is always so important so Thursday night will be massive for Celtic before going back to Glasgow.

"Neil Lennon should watch our game. Because away from home at the Parken, it will be like how we played against Copenhagen at home.

"For us, we had to play this way and we limited them to few chances. At the back we were brilliant and if you've got quality on the counter-attack you can make them suffer.

"Celtic should expect a lot of balls into the box because you know how direct Copenhagen will be.

"The key to beating Copenhagen is concentration and working as a unit at the back. They push their full-backs on and they'll probably go with two big boys up front in Dame N'Doye and Pieros Sotiriou – which makes them a tough team to play against. In the midfield, they have quality as well in Zeca who is very good on the ball.

"But I think Celtic should be encouraged by watching our performance against them on Friday. We've shown Celtic the way to do it. You have to be compact and solid then let your quality come through. I'm sure Celtic have that quality."

And Mannone, who almost joined Gretna on loan when he was a kid at the Gunners, reckons the Danes will struggle in the second leg.

He explained: "I've been to Celtic Park with Arsenal for a Champions League qualifier 11 years ago. We won both games at Parkhead and the Emirates – I was on the bench for those games.

"The atmosphere was unbelievable, it's one of the best stadiums I've ever been at.

"It reminded me of Anfield, that's the only place I can compare it to. Those are the top two atmospheres in my career.

"And if Celtic are solid like we were against them on Friday, I'm sure their quality of football will come to the fore and they'll have a real chance of winning the tie."