What: Champions League – Round of 16 (first-leg)
Who: Celtic vs Juventus
When: Tuesday 12th February, 2013, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Parkhead, Glasgow, Scotland
Champions League Dream Resumes For Celtic
Celtic were one of the surprise packages of the Champions League group stage, a 2-1 home win over Barcelona the highlight. That famous victory will long live in Celtic folklore and gave Neil Lennon’s side the impetus to go on and seal their qualification for the Round of 16. Whilst the victory over the Catalans was hugely impressive, it should not be ignored how big an achievement it was to knock out a talented and experienced Benfica team too.
The group stage also gave some of Celtic’s squad the opportunity to make a name for themselves. Fraser Forster in particular shone in goal, his heroics critical to the win over Barcelona especially. Victor Wanyama’s physical presence in midfield also stood out, as did forward Gary Hooper’s technique and finishing prowess.
The Hoops come into the Champions League encounter with Juventus in good form, having won five in a row in the Scottish Premier League to open up a commanding 18-point lead which means they can focus more energy on Europe. And although they haven’t had to worry about rivals Rangers this season, with their Glaswegian neighbours languishing in the fourth tier, the club have offered Juventus the use of their Ibrox facilities, always keen to try and get one over on Celtic where possible. Celtic will probably not be concerned however, as they build up to their biggest game of the season.
Old Lady Look To Revive Past Glories
After the unbeaten campaign of last season, Juventus are finding 2012/13 a bit trickier as they look to compete on three fronts. Having held a commanding lead just a few weeks ago in Serie A, last weekend Napoli overtook them for 24 hours, although the Turin giants have since extended their advantage to five points. A shock home defeat to a 10-man Sampdoria last month was the low point of the season for Juventus, who have also been held by Parma and Genoa during a run of one win in seven. They are also out of the Coppa Italia, beaten by Lazio in the last minute of the second leg of their semi-final clash. Having equalised in that tie in injury time themselves, that late defeat showed a fragility not attributed to the Old Lady over the last 18 months. Is playing three games a week catching up with them?
Perhaps, but it is also not a coincidence that the dip in form the Old Lady have experienced has come at a time when Giorgio Chiellini has been out injured. The Bianconeri’s back three is arguably the best in world football, but deprived of Chiellini, their tight backline is that bit easier to breach. They have kept just two clean sheets in their last 10 games.
Coach Antonio Conte, who was so important for the great Juventus side which conquered Europe in 1996, is certainly keen to replicate that glory with his current team. Conte missed the group stage because of his suspension from the game for failing to report match-fixing whilst at former club Siena. His team, fresh from a 2-0 win over old foes Fiorentina, will be full of optimism as their Champions League campaign resumes.
Celtic 4-1 Kilmarnock (30/01; Scottish Premier League)
Raith Rovers 0-3 Celtic (03/02; Scottish Cup)
Inverness CT 1-3 Celtic (09/02; Scottish Premier League)
Lazio 2-1 Juventus (29/01; Coppa Italia)
Chievo 1-2 Juventus (03/02; Serie A)
Juventus 2-0 Fiorentina (09/02; Serie A)
Celtic: James Forrest; Giorgios Samaras (doubt); Efe Ambrose (doubt); Emilio Izaguirre
Juventus: Kwadwo Asamoah (doubt); Giorgio Chiellini; Nicklas Bendtner; Simone Pepe; Mauricio Isla
Players to watch
Celtic – Fraser Forster: Forster was in remarkable form in the group stage and will forever remember the night he kept Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and co. at bay. Given Newcastle’s great scouting operation overseas, it is remarkable they let this young Englishman slip from under their noses. Forster has been missing recently with a neck injury but is fit again for the resumption of the Champions League. Having been praised by the man marshalling the opposition goal, Gianluigi Buffon, as having the potential to be the best in the world, Forster should be full of confidence and that will be vital as he will have a busy night trying to keep the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Fabio Quagliarella and Sebastian Giovinco from scoring.
Juventus – Fabio Quagliarella: Quagliarella is Juventus’ top scorer this season and he will be particularly important as the club continue to suffer a striking quandary. Fernando Llorente is arriving this summer and Nicolas Anelka has been signed on loan, giving a clear sign to Quagliarella that he has a real fight on his hands for his place in the team. With Mirko Vucinic struggling for fitness and form, the former Sampdoria man will have the chance to show what he can do again in Glasgow. In a game against a side that will close them down and give Conte’s outfit no space, Quagliarella’s eye for the spectacular and precise finishing could just be the difference.
This is an exciting clash between two sides who have not been at this stage for a while. Celtic are in the last 16 for the first time in five years and Juventus are back after seven years away. Lennon was in the Celtic outfit which memorably beat Juventus 4-3 the last time these two met in Glasgow, a night when Buffon kept goal for the Italian champions, and will hope to inspire the same spirit that saw them win then.
The Scottish giants are resolute at home and theirs is one of Europe’s most intimidating grounds for opposing sides to visit. In fact, no Italian side has triumphed in eight games at Parkhead since a victory for AC Milan in 1969. And it was of course against the other Milan side, Inter, that Celtic enjoyed their greatest moment, victory in this competition in 1967 .There will almost certainly be no repeat of that this year, but that does not mean Celtic cannot make progress. But it will require a huge effort to keep the Bianconeri at bay – Juventus have not lost away from home in Europe since a defeat to Fulham in 2010.
Conte’s team should dominate possession with their fierce midfield trio of Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Marchisio one of the most imposing and competitive in Europe. Celtic will have to be careful not be overrun by the combination play between those three and the rampaging full-backs Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichsteiner. At least there are questions over Juventus at the back in Chiellini’s absence, as well as up front where they lack a consistent goalscorer. With Celtic’s fierce competitive spirit, organisation and the tactical maturity displayed in the group stage, having endured the barrage of pressure put on them by Barcelona, they can go to Turin with something still to play for. Celtic 2-2 Juventus.
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