He’s good enough for Serie A! Juve’s Conte hails Celtic star Hooper
Celtic v Juventus: Old Lady manager Antonio Conte reckons Hoops striker Gary Hooper is good enough to play in Serie A
Antonio Conte believes that Celtic striker Gary Hooper could excel in Italy, with his Juventus side tasked with keeping the Englishman quiet in the first leg of their last-16 tie at Parkhead.
The 25-year-old has been touted for an England call-up after an impressive tally of 22 goals in 34 appearances for the Hoops in all competitions this season.
Hooper scored two crucial goals in the Champions League as Celtic reached the knockout stages, prompting interest from the Premier League, including Norwich City.
However, Conte feels that Hooper is good enough to have an impact in Italy’s top flight ahead of Tuesday’s tie.
“Hooper up front is a player who, with the greatest of respect to Scotland, could excel in our championship in Italy,” said Conte.
“He is a very fast player, who attacks the spaces very well and is a good finisher.”
Celtic are 18 points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League, and Conte believes the Hoops have plenty of strength throughout their side and cannot be underestimated.
“Celtic has good players throughout the team and the heart and soul seems to be Scott Brown. Alongside him is Victor Wanyama who, as well as being technically good, has an impressive physique.
“Georgios Samaras attacks the spaces very well and is another who has an imposing physique as well as being technical.
“I like Kelvin Wilson and keeper Fraser Forster, who is a very young player with a very good future.
“Celtic are not unknown to us and we have certainly not underestimated them. I said before they have not just played well in the SPL as not many teams could beat Barcelona at home and just narrowly lose away.”
Celtic v Juventus: Pre-match facts
• Celtic have not lost in eight games against Serie A opponents at Celtic Park since their first visitors from Italy, when AC Milan, prevailed 1-0 in a European Cup quarter-final on 12 March 1969, winning by the same aggregate score.
• Celtic’s 19 games against Italian sides have ended W5 D7 L7 (W4 D4 L1 in Glasgow). The most memorable contest was the first, Celtic beating Inter Milan 2-1 in the 1966-67 European Cup final in Lisbon to become the first British club to lift the trophy.
• Juventus, who remained unbeaten in the group stage to extend their unbeaten run in European competition to 16 games, are in the Champions League knockout rounds for the 10th time.
• Juve have not been beaten on their travels in Europe since 18 March 2010, when they went down 4-1 at Fulham in the Europa League group stage round of 16 second leg, losing 5-4 on aggregate. Their subsequent eight away fixtures have produced three wins and five draws.