February, the month of Valentines Day. For many, it is. But not for football fans. For football fans, the month of February is a month of football. The month of the Champions League. And what a month we have waiting.
December 20th in Nyon, Switzerland saw a whole host of mesmerizing fixtures being pulled out of the hat. Such fixtures included Arsenal vs. Bayern, Milan vs. Barca, and of course, Manchester United vs. Real Madrid. Here’s a preview of what’s to come;
Galatasaray vs. Schalke 04
Schalke will be looking to maintain their impressive away form in the Cup, having won at Arsenal and Olympiacos before Christmas, which ultimately kept them on course to win Group B. Having said that, away form goes out of the window when playing at Turkish giants Galatasaray.
Jens Keller (Schalke coach having replaced Huub Stevens in December) will be looking for a positive result in his Champions League debut. If Schalke do manage to get an away goal and perhaps scrape a draw or narrow win, I’d predict them to win comfortably at the reverse fixture in Gelsenkirchen on March 12th.
Obviously, everybody knows the danger that Dutch international, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, poses to any team he plays. Having scored an impressive 47 goals in 52 appearances last year, he is a noticeable threat in the box. Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim will be looking how to nullify such a strong force.
However, Galatasaray have an attacking threat of their own. Turkish international Burak Yilmaz achieved an impressive scoring record of his own whilst playing for his former club, Trabzonspor, scoring 55 goals in only 74 games. Not bad considering Galatasaray only paid €5 million.
I believe that Schalke have the quality to advance into the next round. I predict a draw in the first leg and a Schalke win in the second.
1st Leg: Galatasaray 1-1 Schalke 04
2nd Leg: Schalke 04 2-0 Galatasaray
Celtic vs. Juventus
The last time these two clubs met was in a Champions League group game in 2001/02, which featured Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, on the pitch. Neil Lennon played in both matches, with Celtic losing by 3 goals to 2 in Turin after a controversial penalty was awarded in the dying minutes. The return leg featured a wonder goal from Celtic striker, Chris Sutton, but it also (sadly for the Celtic fans) featured a finishing master class from the one and only, David Trezeguet. Celtic won the game 4-3, meaning Juventus would progress into the next round, leaving Celtic behind.
Juventus have been unstoppable so far this season, racking up 48 points in 21 games, with an impressive goal difference of 31. Celtic have been equally impressive, accumulating 49 points in just 23 games with similar goal difference of 32. Both sides match each other on paper, but will Celtic be able to upset the odds and surpass the Italian giants?
Celtic have been known for their physicality within the midfield, and have been able to bully opponents in the center of the park. That’s why I see Victor Wanyama as the key player for Celtic in this fixture. Wanyama has the brute strength and tackling brain to stop the heart beat of Juventus. That heart beat being none other than Andrea Pirlo. If Wanyama can stop the circulation, the Juventus infrastructure may collapse.
Juventus also have a brute in the midfield, who, if played in the correct position, can intercept Wanyama’s attempt to ‘bully’ Andrea Pirlo. That player is the Chilean International, Arturo Vidal. He has strength and speed equal to those of Wanyama’s, if not better. I expect a thrilling battle in the middle of the park in both ties.
I predict that Juventus will advance, with wins in both matches. However, they will not be comfortable wins, as we all know of Celtic’s resilience in the face of giants.
1st Leg: Celtic 1-2 Juventus
2nd Leg: Juventus 3-1 Celtic
Written by TheFootballSupplement