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‘Beating Juve tops hitting Barca’- Wanyama

WANYAMA-BARCA-1LONDON, England, February 12- Victor Wanyama believes beating Juventus would top toppling Barcelona when Celtic face the Old Lady of Turin on Tuesday in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League knock-out clash.

The Hoops midfielder said: “For me beating Juve would be a bigger step than beating Barcelona because it would be a massive bonus for us and give us the chance to go to another level of the Champions League.

“So it is going to be very, very good for us if we win. It would take us into the history books if we could get past them.

“It is a big game and we are really looking forward to it. Juventus are a very good team and have top individual players.

“It will be good competing against them.”

The Harambee Stars midfielder scored the opener in Celtic’s 2-1 win over Barcelona and after their first meeting with the Catalan superstars in October Neil Lennon stated the Kenyan was worth £25 million.

Lennon believes Wanyama has taken his game to new heights in the Champions League.

The manager said: “He brings strength, power and he reads the game very well. He is quick across the ground and is a very technical player. He has a goal in him too. He has eight or nine this season and is a real threat from set-pieces.

“As you could see from his performances against Barcelona, he rises to the occasion.

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“He found an extra five yards of pace from somewhere when he was breaking away from Xavi and Iniesta. He will be very important.”

Wanyama has relished testing himself in Europe’s premier club competition. He said: “I think when you play big games you learn and also you want to compete with the best.”

Wanyama’s brother, McDonald Mariga Wanyama, is playing with Parma, where is on loan from Inter Milan, and he has been a good source of information about Juventus, the Celtic player said.

Wanyama added that he hoped Efe Ambrose would be back in time for the Juventus game after starring for Nigeria in the final of the African Cup of Nations.

Lennon insists his side shouldn’t be regarded as underdogs when they face Italian champions Juventus in the Champions League last-16 first leg at Parkhead on Tuesday.

Lennon’s team were surprise qualifiers for the last 16 after finishing ahead of Benfica and Spartak Moscow in Group G and caused a major upset when they beat Barcelona en route to their first appearance at this stage in five years.

But despite their impressive feats in the group phase, the Scottish champions are still seen by many pundits as inferior to Juventus, who are favoured to advance to the quarter-finals.

Lennon disagrees with that assessment and claims Celtic’s players have the technical ability and mental strength to trouble any team in the competition.

“I think we have been (underestimated) throughout the whole campaign and going into this game we are being made out to be massive underdogs but I don’t quite see it that way myself,” Lennon said at a pre-match press conference in Glasgow on Monday.

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“There is a real belief, anything can happen over two games. We go into the tie as underdogs but nothing is going to be decided at the end of 90 minutes tomorrow.

“It is over two games and we are prepared to play hard football over 180 minutes.”

While Lennon was rightly keen to talk up his own team, he was also willing to acknowledge Juventus possess top-class players throughout their squad and particularly in attacking areas.

“They have excellent strikers – Mirko Vucinic, Fabio Quagliarella, Sebastian Giovinco, and they have also brought in Nicolas Anelka,” Lennon said.

“But the one who has caught my eye is Alessandro Matri, he looks an excellent young player.

– Daily Express and AFP

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