Milan: Juventus claim they are not taking the threat of Celtic lightly when the Scottish champions arrive in Turin hoping to pull off a Champions League miracle in their last 16 second leg on Wednesday.
Antonio Conte’s side put one foot in the quarter-finals of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since being ousted by Arsenal in 2006 thanks to a 3-0 first leg rout of Neil Lennon’s team in Glasgow last month.
While the fallout from that defeat landed mainly at the feet of Nigerian defender Efe Ambrose, who was guilty of errors before all three of Juve’s goals, there is no escaping the enormity of the task facing Lennon’s men.
The Champions League, however, has produced several shock results over the years, notably Manchester United’s comeback against Bayern Munich in the 1999 final and AC Milan’s defeat to Liverpool in the 2005 final despite holding a 3-0 half-time lead.
With those in mind, Juventus said “the Bhoys’ desire to place a dent in Juve’s qualification hopes means Conte is leaving no stone unturned”.
That has meant “intensive tactical workouts” with a view to making sure Celtic do not score the early goal which could give the Scots the momentum needed to start working towards causing a huge upset.
Defender Giorgio Chiellini said: “Nothing is in the bag yet. We still have a lot to do and need to approach this game believing that.”
While Conte could rest first team regulars including Stephan Lichsteiner, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal — all of whom played in Glasgow but are one yellow card away from suspension — he is not short on quality.
Conte could welcome back Ghanaian midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah, who should be fresh after missing Friday’s 1-1 Serie A draw away to Napoli, as well as French teenager Paul Pogba.
Since joining the Italians for free from Manchester United in the summer, Pogba has shown maturity beyond his years in midfield and scored some stunning goals to boot.
Reports in Italy suggest Conte’s usual 3-5-2 formation will be spearheaded by strikers Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri, with Mirko Vucinic — who started in Glasgow with Matri — on the bench.
Lennon admits Juve boast quality, but the Northern Irishman is convinced his side’s Scottish Cup quarter-final win against St Mirren will give Celtic a much needed boost ahead of Wednesday’s tie.
He believes the Scots were hard done by in Glasgow, where they were ultimately handicapped by Alessandro Matri’s early goal and left playing catch-up for the remainder.
“What we would like to do is go there and compete and try and win the tie,” Lennon said. “We want to try and make it look like the score-line at Celtic Park was a little bit flattering to Juventus.
“We felt there wasn’t that much between the teams although they did have a lot of class in their side as you would expect from Juventus.
“But, psychologically, today will give them a huge lift going into the game. I think it’s a game very much to look forward to. If we can go there and win it will be a tremendous way to end the campaign.
“This is the Champions League and it’s the blue riband event. We have had a marvellous season in it and we want to end on a high.”