February 12th, 19:45 GMT kick-off
The Champions League draw pitted Italian giants Juventus against Scottish side Celtic. There’s an air of optimism surrounding the Juventus camp following the draws as the Juventus contingent firmly believe they can get through this tie comfortably. Celtic though, are not one to be underestimated. Lest we forget, they did bring down the mighty Barcelona on home soil and managed a stalemate away at the Nou Camp where most teams collapse. The Glasgow based outfit overcame all odds to emerge from a difficult Champions League which included the Catalan titans as well as Benfica and Spartak Moscow.
Juventus, on the other hand, topped their group which featured Ukrainian powerhouses Shakhtar Donetsk and European Champions Chelsea along with European minnows Nordsjaelland. On the domestic front, the Bianconeri hold a 5 point lead over nearest rivals, Napoli. After an underwhelming start to their European adventure, with three draws in their first three games, Juventus picked up the pace and recorded three wins on the trot.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Celtic go into the game against Juventus having rested almost their entire first team squad in this weekend’s 3-1 win at Inverness which puts Celtic 18 points clear in the SPL. Goalkeeper Fraser Forster – who was returning from injury – and midfielder Kris Commons – who only played the first half – are in contention to start on Tuesday.
On looking at Tuesday’s game, the team news is that there are doubts over left-back Emilio Izaguirre and more importantly, striker Georgios Samaras, who has been vital to Celtic’s performances in Europe this season, scoring five goals so far. Defender Efe Ambrose is unlikely to feature as he is playing for Nigeria in the AFCON final.
Celtic will play a 4-5-1 formation against Juventus, keeping things tight at the back and in midfield and perhaps even inviting the Bianconeri to attack Celtic, enabling Celtic to hit on the break.
Fraser Forster, so good against Barcelona, will be in goal, with a back four which will include utility man Charlie Mulgrew and Kelvin Wilson as its foundation. The midfield will be more defensive minded than usual, and will revolve around star man Victor Wanyama, however Kris Commons who is a creative player should start, with Samaras (if fit) supporting lone forward Gary Hooper up front when able.
Celtic will want to play a containing game, knowing that keeping a clean sheet is vital to ensure that Celtic have a chance of qualifying, a 0-0 draw would be a terrific result to take to Turin.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-5-1): Forster; Izaguirre, Wilson, Mulgrew, Lustig; Commons, Wanyama, Brown, Ledley, Samaras; Hooper
The disappointments of the month of January have been firmly put aside by Juventus as they recorded their second straight victory in Serie A. Antonio Conte will be delighted with the fact that his players are hitting form just at the right time as another tumultuous few weeks looms on the horizon. Dominating defender Giorgio Chiellini is unavailable to the manager on account of suspension, he is also injured for the Bianconeri. Nicklas Bendtner, Simone Pepe and Paolo De Ceglie are all on the treatment table. While Kwadwo Asamoah was included in the squad for the trip to Scotland, he isn’t expected to take part on account of fatigue after guiding Ghana to the semi-finals in the AFCON.
Conte will deploy his 3-5-2 formation, a formation that seldom is seen in Europe but a formation that has worked so well for Juventus this season. Leonardo Bonucci should be fresh after he sat out Juventus’ 2-0 victory against Fiorentina during the weekend. He returns to the side at the heart of the defence and is a key element in the Juventus set-up. His ability to marshal the defence is vital to their game as is his tendency to launch attacks from the back.
Juventus midfield is second to none in Serie A and probably only behind Barcelona in Europe as the energy of Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal is clubbed with the limitless class of Andrea Pirlo. Pirlo is the brains of the operation while Vidal is the legs and Marchisio is the lungs of what truly is a perfect unit. Vidal and Marchisio’s will cover each blade of grass allowing Pirlo space and freedom to weave his magic from deep.
The Juventus frontline have been firing on all cylinders lately with Alessandro Matri in particular, finding his feet. The Italian attacker has two goals in two games now and on Saturday night, he managed to slot home from close range without any boots. He should be partnered by the enigmatic Vucinic who will play just behind Matri, often coming short to receive the ball and get himself involved in the build-up play.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Caceres; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Peluso; Vucinic, Matri
Players To Watch Out For
Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)
Juventus’ most creative player will have to bring his game as tries to find the right combination to unlock what should be an organized Celtic defence. Pirlo pulls the strings from midfield and if Juventus do have the lion’s share of possession, expect Pirlo to be at the centre of everything good Juventus manage to conjure up. The Italian International is also is lethal from set-pieces and all eyes will be on him if the Bianconeri do get a free-kick from close range.
Celtic 0-1 Juventus
The atmosphere generated will certainly help Celtic, the away side should expect a hostile reception in the intimidating Celtic Park. The scales though, should tilt in Juventus’ favor as the quality they possess should just get them past the finishing line in this first leg. Expect the Bianconeri to take home a slender advantage with a narrow win or a low-scoring draw.