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Buffon backs Juventus to silence Celtic's 12th man

Monday 11 February 2013 21.25 CET
Gianluigi Buffon at Monday's press conference in Glasgow

Juventus are obviously leaving nothing to chance at Celtic FC, with coach Antonio Conte's exhaustive assessment of the Italian champions' round of 16 opponents betraying extensive research. Yet veteran Gianluigi Buffon says his team-mates have no fear of one of Tuesday's hosts' key players: their passionate support.

"Certainly the crowd can help the team but only to a certain point," the 35-year-old said on the eve of the game. "Opponents can't be getting carried away with that; they must focus on their own game. The atmosphere here is very loud, very British in many ways, but as far as I can remember, no fan has ever actually scored a goal."

A quick internet search suggests otherwise, yet certainly not for a game of this magnitude, with a UEFA Champions League quarter-final place at stake. Buffon, of course, has been here before – his haul of 100 appearances in UEFA competition is double what any Celtic player has mustered – and he arrives in Glasgow with clear aims.

"If I keep a clean sheet, then we can be sure that we get at least a draw which could be something very good to build on for the second leg," he explained. "We wouldn't be going through if we didn't concede but that would certainly be a good start. Both teams will be trying to win, though."

Buffon was a substitute 11 years ago when Celtic stunned Juventus 4-3 on a memorable Halloween night – "it was the last match of the group and we'd already qualified" he says to explain both his absence and the result. Suffice to say he is not expecting a repeat of that high-scoring encounter, especially with the goals tended by him and Celtic's Fraser Forster, a man he says "can become one of the best goalkeepers in Europe."

Conte, too, had praise for the Englishman, also sizing up Scott Brown, Victor Wanyama, Giorgos Samaras and Kelvin Wilson. He reserved special praise for striker Gary Hooper, who he said could thrive in Italy, and Celtic's 12th man – the majority of the 60,000-capacity Celtic Park.

Sat by his side, Conte's goalkeeper disagreed, adding that "the spiciest atmosphere I've ever played in was Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray." It almost sounded like a challenge – Buffon, you suspect, is up for it.

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