This post was guest-blogged by Tarek Khatib. Follow him on Twitter (@Adp1113)
The UEFA Champions League is back and on Tuesday Antonio Conte’s soldiers will be traveling to Glasgow to face the Scottish Premier league’s title-holders Celtic, in a match that has been described by many media outlets as a “battle.” The previous meeting between the two sides brings us back to November of 2001, to an exciting Champions League clash at Celtic Park where an already qualified Juventus side managed by Marcello Lippi lost 4-3 with Del Piero (1) & Trezeguet (2) scoring for the Bianconeri. Interestingly, current Celtic manager Neil Lennon was part of the Scottish side’s starting line-up that day.
Similar to last season, January was not kind to Juventus this year as well, as it saw them succumb to a rather shocking loss at the hands of relegation-battling Sampdoria & then getting knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Lazio followed by a draw against
Granqvist’s arm oh I meant Genoa, but great clubs are always able to respond during tough times and so was the case with Juventus, who have silenced their critics by going back to winning ways by defeating a stubborn Chievo side 2-1 at the Bentegodi & completely dismantling Montella’s Fiorentina with goals from Vucinic & Matri’s sock to a brilliant crowd at the Juventus Stadium which rather surprisingly included Leonardo Bonucci in the Curva Sud!
The official Juventus squad called up to the match surprisingly includes Kwadwo Asamoah who has just returned from international duty with Ghana from the AFCON, here is the complete list:
Simone Pepe: Simone has a long-term injury and has only recently started training on the field with his team-mates.
Expected back: Unknown.
Giorgio Chiellini: Giorgio is injured but also had he not been he wouldn’t have been able to play as he is suspended for getting a yellow-card vs. Shakhtar.
Expected back: 2 weeks (Juventus – Siena, 24th of February)
Paolo De Ceglie: Not a lot of news is currently available about Paolo’s injury since it only occurred last game vs. Fiorentina, but initial medical check-ups say he obtained a 1st-2nd grade tear in his right
Expected Back: 3-4 weeks (Juventus – Catania, 10th of March)
Nicklas Bendtner: Nicklas’ season according to previous various reports is over.
Expected Back: ——-
In goal it will most definitely be “Superman” Gianluigi Buffon, who displayed midweek why he is the world’s best with a string of world-class saves against Holland. Moving on to Defence, Barzagli & Bonucci have their places cemented in Juve’s back 3. Leo Bonucci was suspended for the last league game against Fiorentina and did not feature for Italy midweek due to him breaking Cesare Prandelli’s Code of Ethics with his antics vs. Genoa, thus the Centre-Back should be in top condition for the match on Tuesday having had an unexpected rest. The other “Rock” at the back for Juve who was also voted Serie A’s best defender of the year last season Andrea Barzagli, unlike Bonucci, played both games with Italy & Juventus this past week will certainly start at RCB for Juventus. The last piece of the Juventus defence, the LCB position still remains a bit unclear, with two most likely candidates competing for the spot, Martin Caceres & Federico Peluso. Conte started Peluso at LCB last game against Fiorentina which could be interpreted in 2 different ways, the first is that he favors the Italian over the Uruguayan OR he was just resting Caceres, who played 90 mins midweek with Uruguay vs. Spain, the latter case edges it for us & thus we expect Martin Caceres to start at LCB.
When it comes to the Wing-backs things are pretty clear on the “right” but not very on the “left”. Forrest Gump aka Stephan Lichtsteiner is currently the most-favorite to start at RWB as he has clearly been Juve’s best player at that position this season. On the other hand, the LWB position provides some-kind of a surprise with the call up of Kwadwo Asamaoh to the squad. The Ghanaian has just come back from participating with his national team in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), but if Conte decided to call him up, then there is a possibility that il Mister might play him. With Paolo De Ceglie injured & Giaccherini out of favour, the only possible threat to Asamoah is Federico Peluso, the Italian started last game at LCB but then switched to LWB once Caceres came on for De Ceglie. Peluso may be favored in this specific scenario, even though Asamoah has trained with the team in Glasgow, furthermore, Federico’s physicality and aggression may come in handy against the Scottish team’s style of play, though the main reason for Peluso to start ahead of Asamoah remains the Ghanaian’s recent absence in the AFCON.
Regarding the Bianconeri Midfield, Andrea Pirlo will be given the responsibility of dictating & spreading play at the centre of the park, something which he does with excellence and ease, at least that is what he makes it seem like. Alongside Andrea we will also see Arturo Vidal who is coming of a magnificent display against Fiorentina which once again proved how vital he is for Juventus, providing that efficient-aggression in midfield. Completing the majestic trio is il principino Claudio Marchisio, who has been sensational for Juventus thus far this season with his incredible work-rate & dangerous goal threat. Upfront, one spot is reserved for the mischievous Montenegran that is Mirko Vucinic, who proved once again on Saturday why he remains Juventus’ best striker.
The question is, who will Conte play alongside Vucinic? It is surely one of Giovinco or Matri, but which one? Records have shown that Conte barely benches a player who has scored the previous game & Matri has scored in the past 2 league games against Chievo & Fiorentina, but has Alessandro fully convinced Conte that he is now ahead of Giovinco in the pecking order? We do not think so. Giovinco was fully fit to start last game against Fiorentina but did not & we believe that Conte benched him already planning to play him against Celtic. We think that it will take Matri a little bit more consistency to completely convince Conte that he is his 2nd best striker, but it remains a very tight call, we will not be surprised at all does Alessandro Matri start next to Mirko but for now we will give the spot to the Atomic Ant, Sebastiano Giovinco.