Good morning. Ewan Murray will be online from midday to take part in a live webchat.
Some of the British teams to have won the European Cup are struggling at the minute. Nottingham Forest are jumping between managers, Aston Villa could be relegated for the first time since 1987 and even moneybags Chelsea, winners only 10 months ago, were humiliated by Atlético Madrid in the Super Cup and then booted into the Europa League before their defence of the trophy had picked up any momentum.
Celtic, the first team from these isles to win the tournament, have experienced something of a renaissance in this season's Champions League. Home wins over Barcelona and Spartak Moscow secured their passage to the last 16, where they take on Juventus tonight at Celtic Park. Neil Lennon is excited to welcome the Serie A champions to Glasgow: "In terms of glamour, it's a beauty. In terms of qualification, it's going to be very, very tough. It's a huge game to enjoy and relish and anything could happen over the two legs." It should be a fascinating tie.
If you have any questions for Ewan, drop them into the comments section below.
The webchat is underway. Ewan Murray has arrived, and has a prediction:
Afternoon all. I'm armed with a cup of tea and bottle of water here. Prediction first for tonight- I reckon 1-1. Now fire away (and be kind)....
Our first question comes from jonnyhero, who asks:
"I'd love to see Celtic come through this tie, but do you think Juventus will actually pose a more difficult problem for them than Barca did? Celtic were able to exploit Barca's weakness at set pieces, etc., but Juventus are a much bigger, more athletic side. Will this negate Celtic's biggest strength in the competition so far, and how can Celtic cope?"
Ewan Murray replies:
Certainly a different problem, I wouldn't regard it as a more difficult one. I think that Barcelona win in itself presents Celtic with the issue of opposition teams being more aware of their capabilities and dangers... there should be no question (if there ever was) of a team like Juventus treating a trip to Celtic Park lightly.
"How do you see Celtic lining up tonight? Heavy at the back to avoid conceding an away goal?"
Would expect a flat back 4; Celtic don't have an abundance of centre backs, especially with Ambrose missing (or, technically, only just back from African Cup of Nations duty). Wanyama offers strong protection to the defence from midfield, as well.
"Ewan do you think that Samaras will make it tonight and ambrose? if not do you think lustig and commons will start?"
no word on Samaras yet. 50/50. A no to Ambrose, although he could make the bench. Lustig yes. Commons... hasn't routinely been favoured from the start for these matches and is a very useful sub but he played only 45 minutes at Inverness on Saturday. I'd think Mulgrew on left of midfield but only educated guesswork there.
"Ewan - do you see Forrest starting or do you see him as a game changing option in the latter stages if needed?"
From the bench I would think... his lack of game time is a problem with regard him starting.
And the interestingly-monickered KarlKennedyMadeMeIll asks after Celtic's midfield line up.
Brown, Wanyama, Ledley...
Howard Trang asks:
What do you think of the Australian Tom Rogic? Will he make a surprise inclusion on the team sheet?
[He] did very well at Inverness on Saturday but not included in Celtic's Champions League squad so there will be no sighting of him tonight or in Turin, alas....
"In terms of percentage, what do think Celtic chances are to get past Juve? I have not seen much a Celtic but Juve are too strong, especially in midfield."
Juventus have to be favourites but not by a strong margin... maybe 65/35....
And a non-question from JGordon21:
"No questions your honour, but thanks for acknowledging that Celtic have actually won this competition, unlike some of your colleagues who seem to think that Celtic have never featured on the European scene."
all I'd say on that was that I was careful post-Barca to try and put the win in a historical context. As you say, of course Celtic have been European champions. As fantastic as the victory in November was, the European Cup didn't start in 2005....
Otto Maddox asks:
"How will Celtic aim to neutralise the threat Pirlo poses from the rear of midfield?"
Victor Wanyama! I do think there is a risk (externally, not sure Celtic will do it) of too much focus being placed solely on Pirlo. Marchisio's performance against Chelsea in Turin, for example, showed what talent he has.
"Ewan, do you think Lennon will ask Wanyama or Brown (or both!!?) to do a man marking job on Pirlo (if he starts). I think he is the main difference in the midfield between the two teams and if they can somehow shackle him the bigger chance they have of getting a postive result. Also, do you think Lennon could spring an element of surprise and include Watt from the start?"
more of Wanyama's job to nullify the Juve midfield than Brown (who could possibly play on the right, anyway).
I'd be very surprised if Watt played.. he seems to have gone off the boil a little/fallen out of favour since December. Actually thought he could have been sent out on loan during January.
Andrew Morgan asks:
"Do you think the lack of game time against decent opposition in the SPL will cause Celtic to revert to a 10 in the box mentality ?"
I don't quite understand that question... Celtic have enough attacking power not to play that way. And I wouldn't expect Juventus to come to Glasgow and attack en masse.
Celtic have already proved well capable of adapting from the SPL to the Champions League (if not, earlier in the season, from the Champions League back to the SPL...)
Alec McAulay asks:
"Tell us about the Celtic financials for July-Dec 2012, Ewan. Not yet facing ruin after demise of Rangers..."
as a general rule, the financials of Celtic are made or broken on Champions League involvement... can make difference between a massive profit and a loss. Nothing new there.
As the chairman said: "The revenues generated by the team's success in Europe this year have significantly impacted our half year results."
A considered question from Elpoppa:
"Celtic's victory over Barca in the group stages was a victory for commitment and 'park the bus' tactics. but, given that this is now knockout football, and that a 0-0 would no longer be seen as a great result.Do you feel Celtic will be more adventurous tonight? Also given Juve play at a lot higher tempo than Italy did in the euros, does it not make more sense to not press hard on to pirlo as given juve's style, he may be more inclined to pop the ball off first time, or at least a lot quicker than he does for italy, in this case, pressing pirlo may result in his creating even more spaces."
I think a key difference with this Celtic team to others in the recent past as that they have proved capable of scoring (and winning) away from home. Samaras is a vital tool in that regard; Forrest, Commons, Hooper and even Wanyama also.
Therefore the routine assertion that they will lose and to "0" away from home, in this case, doesn't really apply.
"Its agreed that this is a difficult task that Celtic are facing but what would you say are the essentials NL will have to have solidly covered tactically regards Juve threats in order to even hope of getting sometihng out of these games?"
two simple things- a way of breaking down their stubborn defence and a means of halting their midfield from creating chances. Not rocket science.
Celtic have also proved very adept at scoring from set plays...
"Should Forster be in the England team ahead of Joe Hart?"
no, Hart has proven himself a better goalkeeper over an extended period of time. But Forster is fully deserving of being in the squad, has improved immensely over the last 18 months, and will provide stiff competition.
"How prominent do you think Vidal will be over the two legs? I think he is an awesome player but, if my memory serves me correctly, his performances in big fixtures leaves a lot to be desired. Also, will the Hoopster get a hat-trick?! Hoop there it is..."
Obviously impossible to properly predict but, as I mentioned already, Juventus have plenty talent besides that of Pirlo (who is the player routinely focussed upon).
And no, I don't think Gary Hooper will score a hat-trick... although he may very well score...
And Dormant4 asks:
"I'm a Hibbee. Am I right to feel proud of Celtic's achievement and support them in the CL?"
entirely up to you... there is always this domestic argument between "this is good, it boosts Scottish football's profile" and "this only makes the biggest/richest team bigger/richer"....
If I were you, I'd be more concerned about that performance last night...
Some decent musings on Juventus and tactics from Interista:
"Ewan, having seen a lot of Juve this, and last year, I feel that Pirlo's influence on a game is easily nullified by a simple tactical approach. Marking him depsite the fact he sits deep. Pressure him, give him no time to turn, or be comfortable on the ball.
"The reason he has been allowed to flourish at Juve is that he effectively sits in an defensive/central midfield position is allowed more space to do his job. This is from a combination of the fact his opposing players tend to be attacking or creative midfielders, not interested in marking him or breaking up play, and from the fact Juve have are a very strong side that most teams in Serie A will set up to defend deep against. Pirlo sits way behind the play & orchestrates his game with little pressure.
"England (don't laugh) managed to nullify him quite easily when Wellbeck dropped deep to hassle him. The ageing Pirlo simply could not cope with the energy of Wellbeck who picked his pocket a few times with ease. Why England only chose to do this sporadically, even with another player than Wellbeck, & not for 90 minutes is beyond me.
"Do you agree? And do you not agree that Brown is the man to mark him as he will be closer to him positionally. Putting Wanyama on Pirlo will drag Wanyama out of the holding role where his job will be to stop the likes of Marchiso & the marauding Vidal."
a good analysis... and you will have seen more of them than I have. I just think Brown has his own dynamic/attacking influence which Celtic will want to utilise, rather than have him focus on stopping an opposition player from doing his job.
And as I have said already, Marchiosio and Vidal are worthy of plenty attention as well... it would be folly of Celtic simply to look at Pirlo (which I am sure they won't, anyway).
And one final question from Cleckers, who asks:
I may be too late but just in case...
Related to Dormant4's point, how has Celtic's progression been viewed in Scotland? This is more about Scotland generally and not just about the views from Rangers."
good question.. always a tricky one for me to answer as I'm part of that analysis, I suppose! Celtic have had extremely positive coverage and, I would like to think, at a time when the SPL is at a low ebb (as is the national team) people recognise the wider boost their progress has offered. In simple terms, it can hand people an enhanced view of Scottish football.
The flip side, which cannot be ignored, is that Celtic aren't entirely representative of that Scottish game. They are streets ahead of any other club in the country, on and off the field, and have a real international element to their team (only Scot may play in their starting XI tonight).