(Reuters) - Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo could be forgiven for having the 2005 Champions League final on his mind when the Italian side take a 3-0 advantage into their last-16 second-leg clash against Celtic on Wednesday.
Pirlo was in the shell-shocked AC Milan team who blew a 3-0 halftime lead against Liverpool before losing on penalties in one of the most astonishing European finals in history.
Celtic, beaten 3-0 at home, need to end Juve’s 17-match unbeaten European run and re-write the Champions League record books when they visit the Italian champions but Pirlo, a 2006 World Cup winner with Italy, has seen it all.
“I’ve been in football long enough to know miracles happen. I can still remember the Champions League final against Liverpool,” the 33-year-old told Scottish paper the Daily Record after the first leg.
“Liverpool scored three goals in just a half, whereas Celtic have a whole game. It would be dangerous to consider that the tie is won yet.”
The Scottish team could get inspiration from South America’s Libertadores Cup where Mexican side America pulled off a remarkable win against Brazil’s Flamengo at the Maracana stadium five years ago.
Trailing 4-2 from the home leg, the Mexicans silenced the famous arena with a 3-0 win regarded as one of the greatest humiliations in Flamengo’s history.
A quick look at UEFA statistics, however, highlights the immensity of the task facing Celtic at the Juventus Stadium.
Only two teams have come back from losing the first leg at home to win a tie in the knockout stages of the Champions League since the competition started 21 years ago.
Inter Milan did it two seasons ago, when they lost 1-0 at home to Bayern Munich but won 3-2 away to go through on away goals, and Ajax pulled off a similar fightback against Panathinaikos back in 1995-96.
Like Inter, the Dutch side had only a one-goal deficit to make up, compared to Celtic’s three.
If that were not enough, Celtic are also facing a team who have not lost in European competition for three years, when they were sunk 4-1 by Fulham in the Europa League.
Juventus were knocked out of the following year’s Europa League without losing any of their 10 games and are unbeaten after seven matches in the current campaign.
The Serie A leaders are leaving nothing to chance, although coach Antonio Conte might be tempted to rest Arturo Vidal, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Claudio Marchisio who are one yellow card from suspension.
Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini broke with the usual convention, under which players refuse to talk about potential opponents in the next round, by saying he wanted to avoid Porto in the quarter-finals.
“They are little known but capable of anything, because they have players of great value,” he said. “But I really think Italian football can go a long way in Europe.”
Celtic will be without captain Scott Brown who has a thigh injury and he will be joined on the sidelines by defender Mikael Lustig who has bone bruising.
Celtic warmed up for the match with a 2-1 Scottish Cup win over St Mirren.
Juventus: 1-Gianluigi Buffon; 3-Giorgio Chiellini, 15-Andrea Barzagli, 19-Leonardo Bonucci; 21-Andrea Pirlo; 33-Mauricio Isla, 13-Federico Peluso, 6-Paul Pogba, 22-Kwadwo Asamoah; 32-Alessandro Matri, 9-Mirko Vucinic
Celtic: 1-Fraser Forster; 2-Adam Matthews, 6-Kelvin Wilson, 4-Efe Ambrose, 3-Emilio Izaguirre; 49-James Forrest; 16-Joe Ledley, 67-Victor Wanyama, 21-Charlie Mulgrew; 15-Kris Commons, 88-Gary Hooper
Reporting by Brian Homewood, Editing by Tom Pilcher