Juventus looking to avoid collapse against Celtic
TURIN, Italy (AP) — Holding a 3-0 lead from the away leg, it seems only a total collapse by Juventus against Celtic can prevent the Italian team from booking a place in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Juventus is expected to finish off the job at home in the return leg of its last-16 matchup on Wednesday, and the players have been urging against complacency.
“There’s still a lot to do, we mustn’t fool ourselves that qualification is already in our pockets,” defender Giorgio Chiellini said. “I think the 3-0 win in the away leg was a great performance from the squad, but there’s still a whole game to play.
“So I am convinced that on Wednesday we will give our all in this game and then only think about where Juventus can get to much later on.”
Chiellini could miss the game after sitting out training with a recurrence of an ankle injury he picked up last month. He could be replaced by Federico Peluso who made his Champions League debut in the first leg.
Peluso, who joined on loan from Atalanta in January, arrived at a difficult time for Juventus, which saw it win just one of four matches in Serie A and crash out of the Italian Cup.
However, it has now lost just one of its past five league matches and has a lead of six points after drawing at second-place Napoli on Friday.
“The Champions League game gave us self-confidence,” Peluso said. “But I don’t think the other games have taken the wind out of our sails. We’ve always had the right mentality. A difficult moment in the season is something that can happen and we’ve come through it.”
Three players with yellow cards will likely sit out: midfielders Stephan Lichtsteiner, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio. The replacements will likely be Mauricio Isla, Paul Pogba and Emanuele Giaccherini.
In attack, Alessandro Matri could start, and even Nicolas Anelka could see some action if he recovers after sitting out the Napoli match with a bad back.
Celtic is without teenage striker Tony Watt, who injured his foot in training. Midfielder Scott Brown and defender Mikael Lustig are also out injured but Charlie Mulgrew could feature after recovering from a muscle problem.
Assistant coach Johan Mjallby knows Celtic has a mammoth task ahead of it but believes his players can bow out with their heads held high if they maintain their positive attitude from the first leg, which saw them have 10 shots on target.
“What we can take heart from is that when it came to the first leg we created a lot of chances and we need to be brave tomorrow night and make sure we play good attacking football,” Mjallby said. “Obviously Juventus have a healthy lead and we have a mountain to climb, but we have to believe that we can do it.
“First and foremost our approach is to win the game and try to show everybody that the 3-0 win for Juventus at Parkhead was a wee bit too much. I think we can take a lot of pride if we can win away from home. If this is going to be the last game during this European adventure, we want to finish it on a high. We think we have a good enough team to win the game, but obviously to turn around 3-0 might be too much to ask.”