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UPDATE 1-Soccer-I can imagine Lennon at home in Italy, says Conte

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

(adds Lennon quotes)

March 5 (Reuters) - Celtic coach Neil Lennon would feel at home working in Italy after his bitter complaints over the refereeing in their Champions League tie with Juventus, his opposite number Antonio Conte said on Tuesday.

Conte added that Celtic were just as guilty as his own team about committing infringements when defending corners in the first leg which the Serie A leaders won 3-0 in Glasgow.

"If Lennon complains about referees, he can come and coach in Italy, where all of us like complaining about the referees," Conte told a news conference.

"At every corner, there was a Celtic player blocking (Juventus goalkeeper) Gianluigi Buffon. The rulebook says that that is systematically a foul.

"Celtic are a team who play very well and Lennon is an excellent coach."

Lennon angrily accused Juventus of getting away with incessant pushing and shoving when defending corners in the Glasgow leg and said the referee had turned a blind eye to their fouling.

Predictably, Conte spoke of not under-estimating the importance of Wednesday's match where Juventus have home advantage as well as a three-goal lead.

"We are on alert, there is no intention of undervaluing this second-leg match, you win qualification over 180 minutes and we are facing a proud team who will want to make up for what happened in the first leg," he said.

"Football always produces surprises if you are not fully concentrating. Neither myself nor my time will underrate Celtic."

LENNON CHALLENGE

Lennon, meanwhile, urged his side to finish their campaign, which is expected to end in Turin, on a high note.

"We haven't had Champions League football for four or five years," he said.

"Barcelona, Benfica .. to have those nights back at Celtic Park has been truly memorable for me. And going up against the best teams in the world, the best coaches in the world, has been a fantastic experience for a group of players who are relatively young in their careers and who haven't cost a lot of money.

"They have excelled, absolutely excelled, and they have done the club and Scotland proud.

"They have one more crack at it so if we do go out, we want to go out on our shield."

Lennon admits his side needs a "minor miracle" to go through, but has urged his players to enjoy the experience.

"It would be a tall order to win the tie 4-0 or 4-1, but we are capable of winning the game and that's what we would like to do," he added.

"If we win it would equal the club record (of wins in Europe in a season).

"It is a fantastic game to play in. We may not be here again as a group; you are playing the champions of Italy who are a very good team so enjoy it.

"Enjoy the stadium, enjoy the atmosphere, don't be intimidated. Go and play. The pressure is really off so try to restore some respectability in the tie, play your football and win the game." (Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; editing by Ed Osmond

brian.homewood@thomsonreuters.com; +41 79 917 1402; Reuters Messaging: brian.homewood.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130305/update-1-soccer-i-can-imagine-lennon-at-home-italy-says-conte