Celtic will need a miracle against Juventus in Turin if they are to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Juventus hold a three-goal advantage ahead of Wednesday night’s clash with Celtic at the Juventus Stadium and will be confident of progressing to the last-eight.
‘The Old Lady’ are overwhelming favourites to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals following their 0-3 first-leg win at Celtic Park. It was a crushing defeat for Neil Lennon’s troops, as they dominated their Italian opponents for large periods. Ominously for Celtic, Juventus have an excellent European record and are unbeaten in almost three years, recording eight wins and nine draws.
The Bianconeri have a formidable home record in the Champions League, tasting defeat just once in their last 29 games. Barring an upset of monumental proportions, Juventus should progress to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2006.
Celtic have earned plaudits throughout Europe for their brave displays this year, most notably when they beat Barcelona at Parkhead. However, their profligacy in front of goal was heavily punished by Juventus in the first leg and their European dream looks all but over.
The Bhoys have been inconsistent this season while trying to juggle participation in the SPL and Champions League. They would overcome European giants in mid-week clashes, but often struggle against Scottish minnows at the weekend.
Despite an impressive display in the first leg, Celtic somehow find themselves 0-3 down. History does not favour the Glaswegians, with just three draws from nine European visits to Italy.Celtic have never progressed further than the last-sixteen stage since the Champions League was founded in 1992, and look like falling at this hurdle again this year.
Juventus manager Antonio Conte is expected to rest Georgio Chiellini following his return from injury in Friday night’s 1-1 draw with Napoli. Nicolas Anelka and Martin Caceres are also doubtful as they struggle to shake off their respective knocks. Former Arsenal front-man Nicklas Bendtner is joined by Simone Pepe and Paolo De Ceglie as long-term absentees suffering with thigh injuries.
With Stephan Lichsteiner, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal all one yellow card away from suspension, Conte could decide to rest the trio. Ghanaian midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah and former Mancjester United teenager Paul Pogba could return after missing the Napoli game.
Celtic go into battle without the services of talismanic midfielder Scott Brown. The Scot is still suffering with an abductor problem and will miss the game in Turin. Swedish defender Mikael Lustig is also expected to miss the game with a thigh injury.
Celtic will also be without Tony Watt, Barcelona’s teenage conqueror, while Charlie Mulgrew could start on the bench having returned to training earlier in the week.
Players to Watch
Diminutive attacker Sebastian Giovinco is having an excellent season for Juventus and will look to continue his progress with a good performance tonight. The 26-year-old is often unfairly compared to Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero, but Giovinco is clearly worthy of being recognised for his own performances. In 28 games this season, the Italian has 11 goals and 6 assists, including 2 goals in 4 Champions League games.
Georgios Samaras is a cult hero at Celtic Park and has been excellent for the Bhoys in this year’s European campaign. His exploits have been a key factor in Celtic’s success, scoring five goals. Samaras has played in three of Celtic’s European away games this year, scoring in every one. If Celtic are to transform the improbable to the unbelievable, they will need a super shift from the long-haired Greece international.
Celtic face a monumental task to turn this tie around. If and when the inevitable occurs, the Bhoys will want to bow out of the Champions League with an assured display. Take the draw at 17/4 with Boylesports.com.
Georgios Samaras has been brilliant in Europe this season and at 12/1, the Greece international is definitely worth a punt for first goalscorer.