Juve try to avoid complacency as they welcome Celtic

Posted by Mina Rzouki

"I will never forget that game in Istanbul," Andrea Pirlo told the Scottish Sun. "I will keep that in mind when I face Celtic." The Juventus midfielder was playing for Milan in the 2005 Champions League final, when the Italians threw away a 3-0 lead and eventually lost on penalties to Liverpool.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesAlessandro Matri's goal in the third minute of the first leg in Scotland set the tone for Juventus' dominating victory.

That match will forever haunt Milanisti and for now, it forces Juventus to remain cautious going into Wednesday's second leg of the last-16 Champions Leaague tie. The Old Lady may have one foot in the quarterfinals but her Scottish opponents are eager to inflict a defeat – no matter how unlikely it is that they will go on to qualify.

History is not on Celtic's side as no team has ever managed to overturn a 3-0 deficit at home in the first leg to go on and advace in the history of this elite competition. More negative history for the away side is that Celtic have a poor record in Italy, managing only three draws with six defeats.

However, it's also worth noting the Scots have scored in every single away game in the Champions League so far this season. Including qualifiers, Neil Lennon’s men have scored nine goals in five games to show that whatever the opposition and no matter how hostile the home fans are, they have the maturity and strength to play their own game. Moreover, they arrive with the confidence of a side that sit at the helm of the Scottish Premier League, 16 points above second-place Motherwell.


Happy to welcome Georgios Samaras back into the fold, there will be a target man for them to aim their shots at Wednesday night. In the reverse fixture, Celtic perhaps erred in not changing the tactics to cope with the absence of their striker. Players were still aiming shots to the top only to see their chances duly mopped up by Juve's defensive trio.

However, with him back in the squad, his pace combined with that of James Forrest will be the weapon with which Celtic hope to trouble the Italians. Yet despite their seemingly more potent attack, Mikael Lustig has suggested that the team will not be adopting a gung-ho approach in Italy considering how effective the Bianconeri can be from counter-attacks.

Likely to play a more cautious game, Lennon will look to instruct his defence to remain tight and compact at the back to block all passages of play before taking their chances when the opportunity arises. Despite their numerous shots on goal in the previous fixture and the fact the boasted the lion’s share of possession, especially in the first half, they suffered their worst defeat in the competition when they lost to Juventus.

Their eagerness to push forward and trouble the Italians only exposed a defence that was unable to cope with Juve’s technical ability. That night in Glasgow, no one complained about Juve’s lack of a world-class striker. The Bianconeri took their chances and finished clinically to provide a lesson in efficiency.

Defensively, Juventus are more than capable especially now that Giorgio Chiellini has recovered from injury. If the Scots were offended by the antics of a rough Stephan Lichtsteiner, they will be up in arms about the manner in which the Italian likes to defend. Tough, aggressive and at times downright nasty, Chiellini will do what he has to do to stop the other team. However, the centre-back did not take part in training Monday morning due to an ankle problem so there are fears he may not be able to feature.

If Chiellini is unavailable, then Antonio Conte is likely to rely on Federico Peluso. The defender who only arrived in January has performed impressively in his last few matches and especially against Napoli when he limited the impact of Christian Maggio. He will undoubtedly prove reliable if he plays.

Speaking of Lichtsteiner, the fiery Swiss will most likely be benched for the match on Wednesday, as he’s one yellow card away from suspension. Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal also face the same dilemma and thus may not be deployed in the starting lineup. Instead, Antonio Conte will likely rely on the strengths of his dynamic midfielder Paul Pogba while Chilean Mauricio Isla is being tipped to take over the duties on the right.

With the stadium already sold out, Juventus hope their dream will continue. Undefeated so far in the Champions League with several major clubs around Europe eyeing the Old Lady’s impressive coach and directors, there’s every reason to believe Juventus can reach the final. However, it will not be easy and they will need to remain focused against Celtic and avoid complacency against a physical side eager to make an impact.

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