Hoops Hope For European Success

Georgios Samaras will be vital in Celtic's push for a first leg lead. Image courtesy of skysports.com
Scottish football has been having a dismal time of late, with Rangers’ demotion from the Premier League due to bankruptcy and the national team struggling in its World Cup qualifying group. The green and white side of Glasgow has something to cheer about this week, though, with Celtic taking on Juventus after reaching the final 16 of the Champions League for the first time in five years.

On paper, it’s a match Juve should dominate, but the Hoops’ home form in the competition was very good in the group stage. A shock 2-1 win over Barcelona in November was followed by the same scoreline in a victory over Spartak Moscow in December. Those results allowed the Scots to leapfrog Benfica in to second place in Group G. Manager Neil Lennon took no chances ahead of his biggest game in charge of the club, making 10 changes prior to Celtic’s 3-1 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the SPL at the weekend.

Last time these teams met at Celtic Park back in 2001, the Bhoys triumphed 4-3 . Current Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was in that side, as was current Sydney FC star Alessandro del Piero. The Bianconeri drew their first two away matches in the group stage; 2-2 against Chelsea and 1-1 in Denmark against FC Nordsjaelland. In both games they had to come from behind , but they signed off with a 1-0 win away to second-place Shakhtar Donetsk.

Africa Cup of Nations duty will affect both sides in different ways. Juventus will have midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah available after Ghana’s run came to an end at the semi-final stage. Celtic is unlikely to be able to call up Efe Ambrose who is likely to arrive back in Glasgow too late after celebrating Nigeria’s tournament over Burkina Faso.

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