Brian Glanville in the Sunday Times

BE AFRAID, be very afraid, might be the apposite warning to Juventus as the
cauldron of Celtic Park awaits them. Not that Celtic fans are anything
short of generous. There was real altruism in the way they recently
applauded Barcelona onto the field in Glasgow before going on against
enormous odds to beat them, having previously succumbed only 2-1 very late
indeed in another, bigger cauldron; that of Camp Nou. If even the wiles and
elusiveness of Lionel Messi supported by the formidable Iniesta and Xavi
could not rattle Celtic, the penetrating defence-turning passes of Andrea
Pirlo will scarcely intimidate them. The wonder and glory of this Celtic
team is that, by the sharpest comparison with today’s leading European
clubs, they have been effective on a near shoestring.

Of course there is in one major respect no comparison between the current
Celtic team and the one that so gallantly and unforgettably conquered Inter
in Lisbon in the European Cup final of 1967. That, almost incredibly as it
now seems, was a team composed entirely of players born in and around
Glasgow; even if Bertie Auld, the brains of an incisive attack, had spent
some time in England. By contrast, the present Celtic team is polyglot to a
degree. It was a young Kenyan, Victor Wanyama, who scored a goal of
spectacular power against Barca; showing that he — initially known as a
centre-back, then a central midfielder — can dangerously attack as well as
defend.

Greece international Georgios Samaras found little opportunity at
Manchester City, but Celtic turned him from a centre-forward into a
left-flanking midfielder, with the emphasis on attack and the ability to
score goals.

And who, in the golden era of the revered Jock Stein — who once played
centre-half and captained Celtic, then moulded that 1967 team — could have
imagined a Honduras international in the shape of Emilio Izaguirre
operating as an attacking left-back, a role filled in the 1967 side by
Tommy Gemmell, who scored that spectacular goal in the European Cup final.

True, there is no Jimmy Johnstone, the gloriously quick and elusive
right-winger of 1967, in the present side to torment opposing left-backs.
But Neil Lennon, the accomplished if relatively inexperienced manager and
former Celtic star, does like to play with width. Kris Commons, English
born but capped by Scotland, operates on the right. He and Lennon were once
teammates at Nottingham Forest.

Overall, Celtic’s transfer policy has been impressively shrewd. They have a
goalkeeper with a strong claim for the England place in 24-year-old Fraser
Forster, whose resilient saves kept Barcelona at bay. Celtic got him from
Newcastle United, who may now rue letting him cross the border on loan
before selling him in June.

Another Englishman and a tribute to Celtic’s ingenuity is striker Gary
Hooper, plucked from Scunthorpe in England’s League One. But whether he or
any other Celtic attacker — including the remarkable teenager Tony Watt —
can get much change out of that formidable Juventus back three must be
uncertain. Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are all
current Italy internationals. But even Chiellini, the best known of them,
has his vulnerable moments — as seen when, in the Euro 2012 final in July,
he let Cesc Fabregas dance past him from the right wing and set up the
first Spanish goal.

Last season Juventus — having emerged yet again from one of their sporadic
corruption scandals but unburdened by European fixtures — sailed through
the season to become unbeaten Serie A champions. The dominance has carried
on this term with Juve already eight points clear; Friday’s 3-1 victory
over Cagliari helping them to a league record 94 points in the calendar
year.

In Gigi Buffon, a veteran now but once a goalkeeping prodigy, they have a
keeper of vast experience and reassuring presence. Claudio Marchisio, yet
another Italy international, is a versatile and dynamic central midfielder
who can score goals, while there is an abundance of attackers to form the
usual double spearhead and thrive on the searching passes of Pirlo, so
unwisely discarded by Milan. Mirko Vucinic was the scourge of English teams
when he played for Roma. Fabio Quagliarella is a supreme opportunist fully
recovered from his knee operation in January 2011. Sebastian Giovinco,
acquired from Parma last summer — where he scored 15 league goals for an
otherwise modest team — is another front runner. Then there is Alessandro
Matri, a force in the league last season. Not to mention the Chilean
right-winger Arturo Vidal — fast and often eager to cut in.

That Juve should only have drawn away to as weak a team as Denmark’s
Nordsjaelland may be significant. But they certainly took a confused
Chelsea team apart in their 3-0 win in Turin, ending Roberto Di Matteo’s
tenure at the London club. Celtic, however, are unlikely to offer as meek a
defence as Chelsea that night.

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