11th February 2013
Celtic were hardly handed a favourable draw having been pitted against the reigning Serie A champions, but after seeing off mighty Barcelona at Parkhead in group stage, the Bhoys will fancy their chances against the Italian powerhouse. Juventus go into this match on the back of a derby win over Fiorentina, with the Bianconeri hoping to put the tie beyond doubt even before the return leg.
For years Celtic had struggled on European travels, making it almost impossible for themselves to get past the group stage in spite of some excellent showings at Parkhead. Everything changed with the arrival of Neil Lennon, who persuaded the players they are up for the task and soon the results started improving. Many believed 3-2 win over Spartak in Moscow to be just a one-off result, but very good showings at Barcelona and Benfica quickly proved the doubters wrong. On top of that, Celtic remained a force to be reckoned with at Parkhead, recording a glorious victory over arguably the world’s best side and taking four more points from fixtures against the other two teams. With their SPL campaign nothing more than a walk in the park, the talented manager was able to rest his key players at the weekend, but Efe Ambrose looks unlikely to start after helping Nigeria win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday. Kris Commons and James Forrest both return, while Emilio Izaguirre and Georgios Samaras are likely to start despite facing fitness tests.
Three years after crashing out of the Champions League in group stage, Juventus returned to Europe’s elite competition to show everyone they are on the road to return to old glory days. The Bianconeri were always going to have a tough task having been placed in the same group as reigning champions Chelsea and excellent Shakhtar Donetsk side, and they found themselves in a difficult position after taking just three points from as many games. Juventus, nonetheless, upped their game to end the group stage with three straight wins and finished as group winners ahead of Shakhtar. The team have since done well to create a five-point cushion at the Serie A summit, although they were eliminated from Coppa Italia at the hands of Lazio. The Celtic game appears to be coming in just the right time for the Bianconeri as they will have both Leonardo Bonucci and Kwadwo Asmoah back to the side, while Claudio Marchisio and Sebastian Giovinco returned into action at the weekend.
Having done so well in group stage, Celtic will not be afraid to attack their more illustrious opponents, which should guarantee us an open game at Parkhead. Juventus have got loads of attacking potential and they are not afraid to use it, but their back line should be under constant pressure from the hosts.
Verdict: Over 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 6/5