We will fancy our chances – Lennon
Published 21/12/2012 | 05:00
Neil Lennon said that yesterday's Champions League draw, which paired Celtic with Juventus in the first knockout stage of the tournament, had excited him more than anything else in his time in charge at Parkhead.
The Celtic manager had originally intended to travel to Nyon for the draw along with the Celtic chief executive, Peter Lawwell, and other club representatives but did not go after all because the occasion coincided with the seventh birthday of his son, Gallagher.
Instead, Lennon watched the proceedings unfold live on TV along with his squad at their Lennoxtown training base.
"This is the most excited I've felt since I took over the job – and proud, proud to be associated with the club, Peter and the delegation out there," Lennon stated.
"I'm delighted for the board and the supporters. With the players, there was a real sense of anticipation around the training ground this morning, as you can imagine.
"So they've all gone away really looking forward to what should be two of the best nights of their careers.
"I think they will be really respectful of us but they will fancy it behind closed doors. Do we fancy it? Over two games, anything can happen. We are capable of scoring away from home – we have proved that in all the games this season.
"So 0-0 at home, would that be a good result? The way we are playing away from home I don't see why not. If we can match what we did in Moscow and the Nou Camp, then we should be okay."
The return of Juve to the East End of Glasgow on February 12 – the second leg in Turin is on March 6 – will resonate powerfully with Lennon, who played in one of Celtic's legendary victories when they beat the Bianconeri 4-3 at Parkhead in a group stage game in 2001.
In the first game at the Stadio Delle Alpi, Juve won 3-2, the winning goal being scored from a penalty kick won by Nicola Amoruso with a blatant dive in a challenge by Joos Valgaeren.
The incident provoked Martin O'Neill, the then manager, to apoplectic rage in the Celtic technical area.
"To be fair, you couldn't blame him because there was no contact between Joos and Amoruso," Lennon said.
"Amoruso got the penalty and we all felt incensed, all felt a sense of injustice. We had come back from 2-0 down. If a decision like that had gone against me, as a manager, I would have been just as incensed." (© Daily Telegraph, London)