Grand larceny could be the making of Larsson and company

Celtic are still seething under that Turin cloud. But Phil Gordon finds their resolve reinforced
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The Independent Online

There was something familiar about the policeman who stepped out of his squad car in Turin on Tuesday and approached the raucous Celtic fans enjoying an al fresco liquid lunch in the Piazza Castello. Only the uniform seemed strange, but the rugged build, cropped grey hair and sunglasses pointed to a familiar indentity.

As he approached them to distribute leaflets warning of a 24-hour embargo on drink, the green and white Glaswegian horde looked him in the eye. Then, burst into chorus: "There's Only One Ravanelli."

The ultra-cool carabinieri was indeed a dead ringer for Italy's goalscoring legend. The White Feather may turn out for Derby County these days, but it was his time at Juventus which truly defines him.

It was Ravanelli who netted when the Bianconeri last won the Champions' League five years ago, his goal in normal time the precursor to a penalty shoot-out victory over Ajax. Yet, it's not only the police who rely on pale imitations of Ravenelli – Juventus do too.

Paul Lambert encountered and eclipsed the Juventus team who reached three successive finals – helping Borussia Dortmund to inflict a 3-1 success in 1997 – and unearthed firm evidence in the Stadio delli Alpi on Tuesday night to confirm that the current side in black and white stripes, which had £106m spent on new recruits in the summer, is not the real thing.

The pain of being cheated out of a courageous draw by Nicola Amoruso's last-minute penalty dupe, was still raw for Celtic's captain by the time he was back in Glasgow. Yet, his verdict on Marcello Lippi's side was delivered as much to put the Scottish champions in the frame for qualification from Group E as the usual suspects.

Celtic have no form at this level, unlike Juve, Rosenborg or FC Porto, who come to Parkhead this Tuesday. However, that controversial 3-2 defeat in Turin could be the making of Martin O'Neill's side of Champions' League innocents.

"That team was nowhere near as good as the Juventus of a few years ago," Lambert declared. "I'm not being bitter or anything, just honest. When I was with Dortmund, the Juventus side we beat in the final had replaced Ravanelli with Christian Vieri, [Alessandro] Del Piero was at his peak and [Zinedine] Zidane was the playmaker.

"They were awesome. Dortmund were complete underdogs for that final. But what I saw in Turin made me believe that Celtic have no need to be scared of Juventus or any other side in the group."

Lambert muzzled Edgar Davids so well, as he did Zidane four years ago, that the frustrated Dutch midfielder lost his head with a series of crunching tackles which earned a belated dismissal on his first game back after serving his doping ban. Lippi admitted later: "For a period of the game all our players were late with tackles. We had to commit fouls because of the speed of Celtic's passing."

No one was more impressive than Stilian Petrov whose vigour and deftness had the Juventus midfield chasing shadows, even when the Italian side had the comfort zone of David Trézéguet's two goals. The young Bulgarian – in only his third game since breaking a leg – earned his reward with the venemous shot which nursed Celtic's hope until Henrik Larsson coolly dispatched a penalty after Chris Sutton had been brought down.

"We really suffered from Sutton's heading skills," confessed Lippi, remembering how Gianluigi Buffon – at £33m the most expensive keeper in the world – had to paw the English striker's header away when the game was goalless. "We were lucky. It should have been a draw. Celtic are a good team, which I knew from watching the video of their win at Ajax, but tonight confirmed it." That thought also burned into O'Neill's head, as he wrestled with the injustice of Amoruso's penalty. "My team grew up in Turin," the manager said proudly. "This is the big, big league and we did superbly against a Juventus team that had so much spent on it.

"However, on Tuesday when we face Porto, we will still be sitting without a point before the game. Points are hard enough to get in the Champions' League, that is why we were devastated."

Celtic are burning with anger to put that record straight at Parkhead against a Portuguese side who, themselves, contain a measure of unfinished business for O'Neill's players: Celtic lost to Porto in a torrid pre-season friendly in Paris thanks to a disputed late goal.

"Porto were more than a bit physical," Lambert recalls. "But that has marked our card a bit and we know what to expect. The Portuguese are great players – I played alongside one of the best, Paulo Sousa, at Dortmund – but some people think they are a bit of a soft touch.

"They're not, and neither are we. They say 'What goes around comes around', but we must put Juventus out of our mind until they come to Glasgow for the last game and concentrate simply on this one. After Turin, the lads can't wait."

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