DAVIE HAY: Barca glory night can inspire Lennon's men to new heights in Europe

Tuesday night can't come quickly enough for Celtic.

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Neil Lennon saw his team send European heavyweights Barcelona to the canvas
Neil Lennon saw his team send European heavyweights Barcelona to the canvas

The Champions League tie against Juventus has been on the back-burner since before Christmas – and excitement at Parkhead is building to fever pitch.

But it won't be until the last ball has been kicked against Inverness Caledonian Thistle tomorrow that Neil Lennon will really allow all his energies to focus on the last 16 tie against the Italian champions.

It will be a hugely difficult evening for Celtic – but will it be any harder than the task they faced when they played Barcelona in the group stage?

However, Barca essentially play the same game wherever they are and whoever they are playing. I'd expect that Juventus might adopt a more cautious approach.

They will be extremely dangerous on the break because they move with speed and precision and they have players who really are amongst the cream of Europe.

At the same time, though, Juventus will give Celtic some respect too.

Lennon's record in the Champions League has been impressive, especially Celtic's home form, and taking a scalp like Barca's will have made a few people sit up and take notice.

The big pressure for the Hoops this season in terms of Europe was back in the summer when they had the two qualifying rounds to get through. That was when the pressure was really on.

Getting into the group stage was always going to be the be-all and end-all for the club this season and, in achieving that, they confounded many people.

There were plenty of observers who thought that Celtic would have a battle on their hands to get the Europa League place but they have managed to qualify for the latter stages of Europe's premier competition.

The build-up to the qualifiers was when there were lots of financial benefits listed.

But when Celtic line up against Juve on Tuesday night there will not be anyone in the ground – chief executive, members of the board and chairman included – who will not purely be focused on the game itself.

The financial ramifications of getting to this stage have now become secondary to simply being there and competing on a football front with the very best that Europe has to offer.

And while it is great for everyone involved with the club for Celtic to be here, there is no-one who benefits more than the players themselves.

This is the highest level you can play at. It is a chance for them to perform against the very best and not just enhance the reputation of the club, but better themselves as players, too.

There is no-one who would really expect Celtic to cope over the two legs against a team who are top of Serie A. But nothing is impossible as they have already shown this season.

They will all want to go into it on the back of a decent result in the Highlands, but this season they have been relatively good at juggling the dual demands of the Champions League commitments with their domestic games.

They will know themselves that they can't afford to go gung-ho against a team like Juventus, but in many respects, a game like this really takes care of itself.


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