After an eventful Champions League group stage that saw Manchester City and defending title winners Chelsea crash out, the knockout phase is set to begin. Round of 16 play begins on Tuesday with two matches, including Celtic against Juventus.
The Bhoys are one of the most surprising clubs to reach this stage. They were drawn into a difficult group, which also featured Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow, but earned second place. Celtic even secured a victory over the La Liga powerhouse.
On the other hand, Juventus were expected to reach the knockout rounds. The current Serie A leaders won Group E in a close battle with Shakhtar Donetsk and Chelsea. The Vecchia Signora enter as favorite to advance from this matchup.
The two clubs will play again in March, a match that will take place in Italy. So, Celtic needs to get a result in the first leg at home to give themselves a chance to advance on the road. Here's all the viewing info for Tuesday's clash, followed by a preview and prediction.
When: Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 2:45 p.m. ET
Where: Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland
Watch: Fox Soccer Channel
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go
Since the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of Celtic to get a result, they have to make a decision about how to attack the match. They can choose to go conservative and hope to secure a point, or dictate an aggressive pace in search of the win, but give Juventus more chances to counter.
The Bhoys do have one dynamic attacking threat in Gary Hooper. He scored two goals during the group stage and has 13 in 20 league matches. His presence means Celtic can take the safer approach and still create opportunities in the final third.
It also helps that Celtic's foundation is a strong back line, led by Kelvin Wilson. They have allowed only 18 goals in 25 Scottish Premier League matches. The next lowest total in the league is 31. It's not UCL-level competition, but it's still impressive.
Knowing that, expect the Bhoys to slow the pace of the match. Juventus averaged two goals per match during the group stage and have enough talent to put a big number on the scoreboard, and all but eliminate Celtic in the first leg.
The Vecchia Signora feature a balanced group of scoring threats. Unlike the Bhoys, who rely heavily on Hooper to carry the offensive load, there are several of different Juventus stars capable of stepping up during any given match.
Mirko Vucinic and Sebastian Giovinco are two players the Celtic defense will have to focus on. The striker tandem has combined to score 12 goals in Serie A play and are supported by a midfield that should get bolstered by the return of Kwadwo Asamoah from the Africa Cup of Nations.
All told, it should be a low-scoring match with each side only getting a handful of good scoring chances. If one club better capitalizes on those limited opportunities, they could steal all three points. But a draw seems like the most likely outcome at Celtic Park.
Prediction: Celtic 1, Juventus 1
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