Champions League

Ferguson aids Lennon's Euro dream

Watch Neil Lennon talk about Celtic's Champions League hopes.
Watch Neil Lennon talk about Celtic's Champions League hopes.
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Neil Lennon will take the inspiration of Sir Alex Ferguson into his preparations for the first-leg of Celtic's Champions League last-16 clash against Juventus at Parkhead.

The Manchester United boss - an ex-Rangers player - has offered his Hoops counterpart regular "tit-bits" of advice as the Parkhead side battled through two qualifiers before coming second to Barcelona in their group to take them into the knockout stages where they were paired with the Italian giants.

Lennon said: "Sir Alex took time out of his heavy schedule to come and visit me and my backroom team one afternoon and throughout the campaign we have been in touch.

"He has gone out of his way at times to help us, not in a huge way but little pointers in the right direction, with little tit-bits of advice for what to look out for and for a young manager he is fantastic in that way.

"Obviously we are up against a great team and great coach and it is very exciting for me to challenge myself against Antonio Conte.

"I don't want to fill the players' heads too much from a tactical point of view.

"And in terms of motivation, I don't think the players need any more from me.

"It is probably the biggest game of some of their young careers and we are hoping we can take the club further in the competition.

"We've always known this has been looming on the horizon so it is almost here and I think we are ready."

While most people see Juventus as strong favourites to win their way through the tie, Conte said: "If anyone has underestimated Celtic, it has certainly not been us. We have great respect for them.

"We have followed Celtic very closely and they were very strong against Spartak, Benfica and Barcelona and even before that in the qualifiers.

"They are a very good team. To beat Barcelona here at Celtic Park and to go close in the Nou Camp is proof of that. We are going to have to be very careful."

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon insists he will not be intimidated by a 60,000 sell-out Celtic Park.

The 35-year-old Italian international was on the bench in October 2001, when Juventus lost 4-3 to the Hoops at Parkhead in a dramatic Champions League qualifier.

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That was not his first experience of a Glasgow football crowd, having played for Parma against Rangers in a UEFA Cup match at Ibrox in 1998, which ended in a 1-1 draw, and again in a Champions League qualifier the following year when the Light Blues won 2-0.

However, Buffon refuses to buy into the cliche of the crowd being the 12th man.

He said: "I have played here (Glasgow) two or three times with Parma and Juventus although the last time 10 years ago I was on the bench.

"It was the last match in the group and we had already qualified.

"The atmosphere is very British in many ways but as far as I can remember, no fan has ever scored a goal.

"Certainly the crowd can help Celtic but only to a certain point.

"The opponents can't get carried away with this and must focus on their own game.

"The most hostile atmospheres I have ever played in, I would probably have to say is Turkey, at Fenerbahce and Galatasaray.

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"Of course, here, at both Celtic and Rangers, they have stadiums that when full have an excellent atmosphere, we already know this and we respect this very much."

Buffon, though, does not believe that keeping a clean sheet will guarantee a Juventus a safe passage into the quarter-finals.

He said: "If I don't concede a goal tomorrow night then we can be sure that we will at least get a draw which will be something that would be very good to build on for the second-leg, but only to a certain extent.

"It's not a case of us going out to attack and Celtic going out to defend, both teams will play to their strengths to try to win the game.

"It wouldn't be categorical that we would be going through if I don't concede a goal tomorrow but it would certainly be a good start."

Manager Antonio Conte admits he was bemused by the commotion surrounding Juventus's decision to train at Rangers' Murray Park training complex this morning.

"It was only really through the Italian press that I learned that there was such surprise and astonishment here in Scotland that we had used Rangers training pitch," he said.

"I have to say I found some of the criticisms rather strange. The choice was a purely technical one.

"The clubs were able to reach this agreement. We needed a training pitch with two goalposts and as far as I'm concerned that's it."

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