Millennium Post

Celtic bank on home advantage

Celtic manager Neil Lennon hopes his side can continue their unbeaten home record in Europe this season when they take on Juventus in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash at Parkhead on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Spanish team Valencia host French rich contingent Paris Saint Germain on Tuesday. Valencia will be buoyed by eight wins from eight encounters against Ligue 1 visitors when they look for a positive first-leg result at home.

The Glasgow giants have seen off HJK Helsinki, Helsingborgs, Benefica, Spartak Moscow and the mighty Barcelona at Celtic Park this season in their best European run since 2008.

Lennon knows they face a mammoth task if they are to get past the Italian league leaders and qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time.

But he hopes his side can take inspiration from their support and fine home form to build up a decent advantage to take to Turin in three weeks’ time.

‘Everyone is excited about this, particularly the supporters because they have been waiting a few years,’ the Celtic manager said. ‘The crowd spurs our players on and can intimidate other teams. Parkhead is a fortress again and that’s what I wanted.’ Lennon has already been part of a Celtic team that stunned Juventus, playing in a 4-3 win over Marcello Lippi’s side in 2001. But the Hoops boss, who watched Juventus take on Genoa a couple of weeks ago, reckons the current crop of Serie A stars are even better.

‘Lippi’s team had more flair with Trezeguet, del Piero, Nedved and Davids. This team is more workmanlike, without being disrespectful to them,’ Lennon said.

‘But in the final third they are clinical and they are probably also better defensively than Barcelona. They are strong, organised and very difficult to break down.

‘They have three strong players in midfield and up front Mirko Vucinic is a great player who takes everything into feet.

‘Juventus are very pragmatic but clinical in the final third. We believe we can get at them though.’

Juventus, who beat Fiorentina 2-0 in Serie A on Saturday to stay five points clear of Napoli, saw Paolo De Ceglie limp off with a muscle strain that will rule him out of the Celtic match.

Vucinic also picked up a knock to his knee in that game, but is in the squad travelling to Glasgow along with Kwadwo Asamoah who returns from international duty with Ghana.


Valencia defender Joao Pereira believes his side’s recent performance against Barcelona proves they can compete with the best as they prepare to take on Paris Saint-Germain as the Champions League returns on Tuesday. The Portuguese full-back provided the cross for Nelson Valdez to score the winner as Valencia continued their revival under Ernesto Valverde with a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday. Pereira doesn’t think PSG have hit the heights of the Catalans just yet. ‘All games are different. Barcelona are a fantastic team and they are better than anyone in the world, not just in Spain,’ he said. ‘The way PSG play is nothing like Barca. It is a different competition and they will be different games.’ Pereira is though more than aware Zlatan Ibrahimovic. ‘It is a game that everyone is going to watch. PSG have great players.’
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