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Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink hopes to help Celtic FC into the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals while easing the heartache he suffered at the hands of AC Milan two seasons ago.
The Netherlands striker grimaces when recalling the semi-final against Milan in 2005, when his PSV Eindhoven side overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit only to lose on away goals, with Massimo Ambrosini scoring a 90th-minute header for the Rossoneri. If nothing can make up for that disappointment, victory for Celtic in the first knockout round would at least alleviate the pain of not reaching Istanbul.
"I don't have feelings of revenge because I am not that kind of person," Vennegoor of Hesselink told uefa.com. "I just want to beat Milan because I'm playing with Celtic. That semi-final is the most disappointing thing that's happened in my career. To be so close to the final, then for it to be snatched away, was very cruel, but that's the past. I always look forward."
Having missed four group-stage matches with ankle and hamstring injuries, Vennegoor of Hesselink is still waiting to add to his goal in the 3-2 Matchday 1 reverse at Manchester United FC. Milan might start as favourites, but the 28-year-old believes Celtic are capable of emulating PSV's run of 2004/05, particularly if they capitalise on their home support.
"We are underdogs but if you operate like a team you have a chance, especially with the boost we get from our fans," he explained. "The atmosphere at Celtic Park is electric on European nights and it gives the players a great lift. If we can play as a team we can achieve big things. We did it at PSV and hopefully we can do it here."
However, the totemic forward is under no illusions about the size of the task. Six-time European champions Milan are off the pace in Italy following last summer's sporting-fraud tribunal and their resulting eight-point penalty, yet according to Celtic's No10, this makes them even more dangerous. "Because they don't have a real goal in Serie A, they are focusing on the Champions League," said Vennegoor of Hesselink, a Milan fan since compatriots Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit played at San Siro.
"Milan have played some of their best football in the Champions League and they have world-class players in every position, players who have won the Champions League and [FIFA] World Cup," he continued. "As PSV discovered, Milan are always capable of producing something different, even when seemingly down and out. You think you are in control, then they punish you. Hopefully that won't happen but we have to get a result at home and try not to give any goals away to have a chance of going through."
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