London: Juventus will enter the “lion’s den” on Tuesday when they take on a Celtic side flying the flag for Scottish soccer.
The Champions League last-16 first-leg tie in Glasgow is the fifth meeting between the proud old clubs and the first since 2001 when Celtic pulled off a shock.
Celtic, the lone Scottish rangers in the competition this season, beat Barcelona on a memorable night in Glasgow in the group phase and any disparity in the quality of the squads will be bridged by the roars of nearly 60,000 Glaswegians.
Barca midfielder Xavier described a packed Celtic Park as a “marvel” following his side’s 2-1 defeat in November and former Juventus great Pavel Nedved knows what awaits the Serie A champions this week. “I’m fully aware of the atmosphere that awaits us in Glasgow because I’ve been there and experienced it first hand,” Nedved, now a Juve director, said.
“We’ll be stepping into a lion’s den and I don’t think the team will need firing up. We’ll have to tough it out.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon made 10 changes when his league leaders warmed up for the visit of Juve with a 3-1 victory at Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday.
Ever since the draw for the last 16 was made, all eyes have been on February 12 and the Northern Irishman said the crowd would play a huge part.
“The players rested have been in great form for what will be a titanic game,” he said. “I’m always optimistic going into games and the crowd will play a huge part. It’s a two-game tie, so it won’t be over no matter what happens on Tuesday.
“I want us to get a good foothold in the tie. Of course, we want to go to Italy with a lead.”
Paris St Germain’s trip to Valencia pits the wealthy French team against one of many La Liga clubs struggling to stay competitive after years of financial struggle.
The contrast is less than flattering for Valencia who, rather than splurging hundreds of millions of euros on top players, have been forced year-in year-out to sell leading performers like David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata.
All eyes will be on PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Valencia full back Joao Pereira told a news conference on Sunday, “They are all very good footballers and we have to be very focused to try and stop them,” Pereira added.
“They have a lot of stars and are building a team. They have signed some great players and the more time they spend playing together the better the team will be.”