Celtic vs. Juventus
Hoops vs. Stripes…Juventus is back, finally, to their stature before Calciopoli tore them down in 2006. Last season, La Vecchia Signora went undefeated en route to winning the scudetto. This season, they hold a five-point lead, scoring the most goals (50) and allowing the fewest (16) in Serie A. Famed coach Antonio Conte is back from suspension. They have reached the Champions League knockout stages for the first time since 2009.
The Bianconeri play a stable, consistent 3-5-2, pivoting on savvy Italian national team veterans Andrea Pirlo and Gigi Buffon. They have allowed just 40 goals in 68 matches the past two seasons in Serie A and the Champions League. Not bad odds to win at 12-1. Just throwing that out there.
Celtic have an 18-point lead in the downtrodden, Rangers-free SPL. It’s not clear how that translates to real soccer. They had an excellent group stage run, though, beating Barcelona 2-1 at home and earning a rare, for them, away win at Spartak Moscow. The Scots are overmatched. Their basic strategy will be to defend at home and try to steal an away goal in Turin.
Valencia vs. PSG
Paris St. Germain are Europe’s latest superclub. They spent big last summer, signing both Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from AC Milan. They also just signed David Beckham, who won’t play in this first leg. PSG blew through a weak group last fall. They are also on a great run of form in France, taking 25 of the last 27 possible points while outscoring opponents 21-1. Injuries have hit the spine of this team, though. They will be missing both Silva and Thiago Motta with thigh problems.
Valencia are saddled with atrocious debts. They have sold numerous star players, including David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata. Still, somehow, they keep stumbling their way into the Champions League. Los Che finished second to Bayern Munich in the group stage, taking all 12 point from the weaker clubs. In the Primera Liga, they have been outscored, but remain one of five teams within three points of the final Champions League spot.
[Photos via Getty]