LONDON Juventus will enter the "lion's den" on Tuesday when they take on a Celtic side flying the flag for Scottish football.
The Champions League last-16 first-leg tie in Glasgow is the fifth meeting between the proud old clubs and the first since 2001 when Celtic pulled off a shock.
Celtic, the lone Scottish rangers in the competition this season, beat Barcelona on a memorable night in Glasgow in the group phase and any disparity in the quality of the squads will be bridged by the roars of nearly 60,000 Glaswegians.
While the national team languishes bottom of their World Cup qualifying group and the Scottish Premier League is still reeling from the demotion of bankrupt giants Rangers, Celtic's run to the knockout rounds for the first time in five seasons has been nothing short of remarkable.
Barca midfielder Xavier described a packed Celtic Park as a "marvel" following his side's 2-1 defeat in November and former Juventus great Pavel Nedved knows what awaits the Serie A champions this week.
"I'm fully aware of the atmosphere that awaits us in Glasgow because I've been there and experienced it first hand," Nedved, now a Juve director, said.
"We'll be stepping into a lion's den and I don't think the team will need firing up. We'll have to tough it out."
Celtic manager Neil Lennon made 10 changes when his league leaders warmed up for the visit of Juve with a 3-1 victory at Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday.
Ever since the draw for the last 16 was made, all eyes have been on February 12 and the Northern Irishman said the crowd would play a huge part.
"The players rested have been in great form for what will be a titanic game," he told the Glasgow Herald.
"I'm always optimistic going into games and the crowd will play a huge part.
"It's a two-game tie, so it won't be over no matter what happens on Tuesday. I want us to get a good foothold in the tie. Of course, we want to go to Italy with a lead.
"We want to be in a position where Juventus really have to knock on our door to try and win it and our away form has been healthy this season."
Antonio Conte's Juventus beat Fiorentina 2-0 to open up a five-point lead in Serie A before turning their attention to Celtic - a team they lost to on their most recent meeting when a side containing Nedved and Alessandro del Piero lost 4-3.
Keeper Gianluigi Buffon is the only survivor from that Juve team while new signing Nicolas Anelka, a veteran of many Champions League campaigns with Real Madrid and Chelsea, has warned his new team mates that they are in for a big test.
"What Celtic have going for them is no pressure," he said.
"For the team that nobody expects to win there is a freedom for the players in the way they approach the game and sometimes that is when you can play your best football.
"It will be a tough game in Glasgow. It is one of the most famous and intense football cities in the world."
Juventus have midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah back in the squad after African Nations Cup duty with Ghana but defender Paolo De Ceglie is not included because of a thigh injury.
Celtic, however, are unlikely to be able to call on Efe Ambrose after he helped Nigeria win the Nations Cup on Sunday.
"He seems to think he will be back on Monday evening or the early hours of Tuesday; we will assess him and see how he is," Lennon told reporters. "It's difficult for me to think he will be in a starting position."
Celtic: 1-Fraser Forster; 23-Mikael Lustig, 6-Kelvin Wilson, 67-Victor Wanyama, 3-Emilio Izaguirre; 8-Scott Brown, 15-Kris Commons, 33-Beram Kayal, 21-Charlie Mulgrew; 9-Giorgos Samaras, 88-Gary Hooper.
Juventus: 1-Gianluigi Buffon; 15-Andrea Barzagli, 19-Leonardo Bonucci, 4-Martin Caceres; 26-Stephan Lichtsteiner, 6-Paul Pogba, 23-Arturo Vidal, 21-Andrea Pirlo, 22-Kwadwo Asamoah; 12-Sebastian Giovinco, 9-Mirko Vucinic
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco (Spain)
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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