Celtic face Juventus in the last sixteen of the Champions League at Celtic Park tonight(kickoff 7.45),knowing that a win will go a long ways towards securing a coveted quarter final slot.
The Scottish side have been the surprise packet of this season’s competition and upset all the odds by qualifying from a difficult group that included Barcelona and Benfica. After defeating the Catalan giants in Glasgow, Neil Lennon’s men will fear no opposition, and will believe that they have every chance of reaching the last eight.
However, in Juventus, they face an outfit with a strong European tradition, and one that has been impressing of late. The Italians topped a group that included last season’s winners Chelsea, and may feel that they have gotten an easy draw against the Scottish club. If they do go into tonight’s encounter with that mentality, then they may be in for a rude awakening.
A home win would be a massive boost for Celtic, ahead of a return trip to Turin. However,a draw in the Nou Camp shows that the side also have decent away form, further evidenced by an impressive win in Moscow earlier in the campaign. This is a contest that is evenly matched on paper and the hosts will not fear tonight’s opposition one bit. They will now feel that the sky is the limit and privately the Bhoy’s must believe that they can go all the way.
Juventus manager Antonio Conte has the greatest of respect for tonight’s opponents: “If anyone has underestimated Celtic, it has certainly not been us. We have great respect for them. We have followed Celtic very closely and they were very strong against Spartak, Benfica and Barcelona and even before that in the qualifiers. They are a very good team. To beat Barcelona here and to go close in the Nou Camp is prve to be veryoof of that. We are going to ha careful.”
Georgios Samaras and Efe Ambrose are injury doubts for Celtic but both will be given every chance to make it. Samaras is recovering from a hamstring injury, while Ambrose was on African Nations Cup duty the weekend and only returns to Glasgow this morning. Juventus look set to be without midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah, who featured for Ghana in the aforementioned competition.
Neutral footballs fans, and the whole of Ireland will get behind Celtic tonight, and it is a match that they have a realistic chance doing well in. Any prospect of progressing in the competition realistically depends on gaining at least a draw at home, and that result is certainly achievable. The draw at 13/5 is the most likely outcome.