Juventus prepared to go into ‘battle’ against Celtic
“I know that Celtic Park will be like a gladiator arena, but we are ready for battle,” asserted Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo ahead of his side’s last 16 Champions League tie against the Scottish giants. The Italian champions have not endured the best of form since the turn of the year, but recent results suggest they will be prepared to stem the tide when facing the Hoops on Tuesday night.
Juventus faltered in early January with several lacklustre performances, which opened up the title race in Serie A. Mauro Icardi inspired Sampdoria to a shock victory in Turin, before Nicola Sansone’s strike allowed Parma to hold out for a stalemate against the Bianconeri a week later. Antonio Conte’s men relied heavily on Paul Pogba to defeat Udinese, before falling to a controversial draw with Genoa.
The Old Lady’s dealings in the transfer window have not entirely inspired confidence for the remainder of the campaign. Federico Peluso was signed from Atalanta to cover for the injured Giorgio Chiellini, and additionally add depth to the defensive line. However, their attempts to bring in a world-class striker to compete at the highest level in Europe brought mixed results.
Juventus announced the signing of Fernando Llorente from Atletico Bilbao on a free transfer for next season at the back end of the window, but continued to chase the likes of Didier Drogba and Lisandro López for the time being. They ultimately brought in Nicolas Anelka to little fanfare – a player the club first tried to sign in 1999 while the forward was looking for a way out at Arsenal.
In contrast to the previous month, February has revitalised Juventus and appears to have solved the previously volatile striking situation. Alessandro Matri has returned to favour to lead the line, and netted a sublime volley in a strenuous away victory at Chievo Verona before scoring without his right boot in convincing win against Serie A’s surprise package this term in Fiorentina.
Last Saturday’s outing with the Tuscan outfit saw the return of a Bianconeri side that Celtic will dread facing. They thoroughly nullified the threat of Stevan Jovetić and clinically beat Emiliano Viviano between the sticks for La Viola twice in the first half. After the interval they closed up shop for the 2-0 victory, a characteristic they could employ should they take a lead back to Piedmont.
In a battle of the peninsula’s two best midfields, Arturo Vidal dominated alongside Claudio Marchisio and Pirlo for the home side. Stephan Lichtsteiner was concrete at the right wingback position, while Paolo De Ceglie gave one of his best displays all season before suffering a thigh strain.
The debate over whether Anelka makes his competitive debut also lingers over the camp, with Fabio Quagliarella expected to pair Matri upfront. Kwadwo Asamoah is unlikely to be risked from the start as he makes his way directly to Scotland from African Cup of Nations duty with Ghana.
Neil Lennon’s men will have to target the unstable nature of the Old Lady’s back three of late. Chiellini’s continued absence has proved decisive on occasions, while Leonardo Bonucci will be without recent match practice after a two-match suspension. Andrea Barzagli and makeshift centre back Luca Marrone have been the only mainstays in defence, and the latter is a fragile option against tough opposition.
The drive that Celtic displayed to conquer Barcelona will not be lacking from Juventus, and that is a point the squad has made in anticipation of the match. Conte and his players has made sure to acknowledge the power of the home support for the SPL table toppers, but insist it will only be another factor to spur them towards victory in the first leg.
continued Pirlo. “If they want to play football, we will play football. But if they want to battle, we are ready to go to battle.”Tagged in: andrea pirlo, Celtic, Juventus, UEFA Champions League
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