Neil Lennon calls on Celtic to use Barca glory win as spur for Juventus tie

NEIL LENNON today revealed he wants his team to try to grab a lead to take to Turin on March 5 when they face Juventus tomorrow night.

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Efe Ambrose won the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria
Efe Ambrose won the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria

The Parkhead manager is ready to deploy the spirit of the Hoops famous win over Barcelona against the Serie A leaders, who are among the favourites to win the Champions League. And he bristles at any suggestions Celtic will be happy just to keep the tie alive for the second leg in Turin.

He said: "The ambition is to try and win the tie – and to put as much daylight between us and Juventus as we can."

That's the positive message he will continue to hammer home to his players.

And, though the manager and squad are experiencing their first Champions League campaign together, Lennon believes they have already earned their stripes so should not consider this part or their education or development.

"Listen, we played Barcelona, and it doesn't get any tougher than that," he rapped.

"They have shown they can cope against arguably the best club team in the world.

"Juventus are different in the way they set up and in their mentality.

"There is more pragmatism, which is why we will need a little bit more patience because they can frustrate you.

"We'll probably have more of the ball than we did against Barcelona, and it is what we do with that which will probably be the difference in the ties."

Lennon is waiting to find out if Georgios Samaras will be fit to face Juve, but is confident Emilio Izaguirre has recovered from his knee problem, and that James Forrest will be in the squad after his hamstring injury.

Efe Ambrose will also feature. But, as he is not expected back in Glasgow until the early hours of tomorrow following yesterday's African Cup of Nations final in South Africa, a place on the bench is the best he can expect.

Lennon has been considering his options, and Thomas Rogne did his chances no harm with his performance in the 3-1 win at Inverness on Saturday.

The manager said: "Whenever he has played, Thomas has done very, very well for us.

"Games like the one at Inverness suit him, and he was dominant.

"He's played in big games and acquitted himself brilliantly, which is why he is an important member of the squad."

Paddy McCourt was also returned to the starting line up at Inverness.

But, ironically, it is the lack of game time which caused Lennon to remove him from the Hoops' Champions League squad list for the knock out rounds.

That raised a few eyebrows, given that neither of the January recruits, Rami Gershon or Tom Rogic, was added to the list registered with Uefa.

But Lennon explained McCourt's removal: "It's just a lack of football, really.

"These ties are coming very, very quickly, and I'm just not convinced he will have had enough football to play a part in that.

"Plus, I want to be loyal to the players who have got us here."


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