As Errol Brown nearly sang, do you believe in miracles? Because that is what it is going to take for Celtic to be playing in the last eight of the Champions League.
Neil Lennon’s side head to Turin to face Italian giants Juventus in the second leg of their round-of-16 tie and not even the most ardent of the travelling Hoops contingent will be expecting anything other than this to be their last away European trip of the campaign.
A ruthless Juventus capitalised on some woeful Celtic defending in Glasgow three weeks ago to come away with a tie-winning, if slightly flattering, 3-0 scoreline that showed what many feared when the draw was made – that this was a battle between men and Bhoys.
On the balance of play, territory and possession, you could argue that Celtic were superior to Juventus, but that shows the folly of using statistics and statistics alone to analyse a football match.
Once Juve had scored after three minutes, they didn’t need to force the game and for all the ball that Lennon’s side enjoyed, they didn’t truly test Gigi Buffon in the Juventus goal and once Celtic tired, Antonio Conte’s side made their extra class tell with two late goals – helped in no small part by some rank bad play from Efe Ambrose.
It was a perfect away performance from Juventus and if anything, it proved how well Celtic had done to get this far.
The Champions League was understandably the club’s priority this year given that winning the Scottish Premier League was always going to be an easy task and to that end, reaching the last 16, at the expense of Benfica and Spartak Moscow and with a historical win over Barcelona to celebrate, it has been a memorable year for Celtic and one in which Lennon has grown has a manager.
So Lennon will enjoy his 90 minutes at the Juventus Stadium, and of course the fans will enjoy a good trip out to Italy. But apart from that, there will be little else to cheer, as Celtic’s run will end with a defeat to Juventus.
It is 33/100 for a home win, 4/1 for the draw and 15/2 for an away win.
Not that 33/100 is a good price given the fact that Juventus don’t need to win. Even for a team who are so superior to their opponents, you aren’t any kind of punter if you are backing a team that not only doesn’t need to win, but can actually afford to lose, at those kind of odds.
But Juventus are a fine side and will ensure that there are no scares. I don’t see Conte’s men going full throttle, but they will be as disciplined as they always are, and of course they have the talent to score goals against this Celtic rearguard.
So what I am going to do is play the evens that Juventus win without conceding a goal, which would provide a return of £40 if successful for anyone backing it with their free £20 bet after registering with bwin.
Celtic huffed and puffed three weeks ago but never looked like they were going to score a goal and I don’t see them scoring against such a miserly side as Juventus.
The Serie A leaders have conceded just 18 goals in their 27 league matches and at home they have been watertight, keeping nine clean sheets in their 14 league matches and letting in just eight goals.
Celtic have had great success from set-pieces in Europe this season, but as we saw in the first leg, they have no such advantage against this Juventus defence and it is hard to see Celtic scoring from open play – they will have to get the ball first.
Juventus will break through, and can get the job done with a clean sheet – making the evens a much better value shot than the 33/100.