Bianconeri leave the possession to Celtic, take home a clean sheet, all the goals, and the victory (again).
We surely made that round look easy. 2 Games against the fiery Scots, 5 goals, 0 conceded, plenty of possession surrendered but a lot of clinical movement and scoring as well. It doesn't necessarily sound like the possession-heavy, dominant Juventus we've come to know in the Serie A over the last 2 years, does it?
Then again, who cares? When we needed to get the job done, we did it. We scored early in the first game, then defended well and killed it all off with two late goals. Then we scored early in the second game, defended well and wrapped it up with a second one for good measure.
You all saw Danny's stat (well, Somnath's stat that both Danny and Somnath got wrong) - it has now been 5 games and some 500 minutes in which Juve has not conceded a goal. If there has been one constant throughout this Champions League campaign and one that connects this team with all the great Juventus squads of recent times, it is that rock-solid defense. And on this rock I shall build my church.
I'd hate to repeat myself from my first Celtic game review, but we really did play a much inferior opponent in this round. The Scots were physically intimidating, but technically poor and offensively toothless. Game 2 today was an obligation as soon as the first goal was scored. There was very little to break down tactically or mentally. Let's just look at them sexy player ratings and start thinking about Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Or if we're lucky, Schalke.
Buffon: 7 - Made a great reaction save to keep away a deflected shot and routinely handled anything thrown at him by the toothless Scots. While he's always playing on a high level, he seems to up his focus and intensity a smidge in the Champions League. He must want to win that trophy baaad. Leader.
Barzagli: 7.5 - The high-up-the-field pressure and then set up for Quagliarella which led to the first goal was very impressive, but Barzagli had a very good game for the rest of the 90 minutes as well. Really stood out in defense. Many of you chose him as your man of match and I can't blame you.
Marrone: 7 - Very positive showing for the youngster. Got another full 90 in the Champions League - who knew Conte would be so trusty in some of our young prospects this late in the season. Both him, Pogba, and Peluso fully deserve their playing time, it would be great to see Marrone develop further this season as there may be more opportunities for him to come. He looks very calm and collected in the center of midfield, not something I can say for the times he's played in Pirlo's role this season.
Bonucci: 7 - Solid overall, did his job as he usually does.
Padoin: 6.5 - Nothing special from the "journeyman" whose preferred position on the pitch I still don't know. He plays whenever, wherever Conte doesn't have a proper replacement. And he always does just an enough decent job not to be included in Molinaro land. He tried pushing but lacked the skill to threaten when he had the ball. He provided width, I guess. Always ran a lot in defense, though he didn't do anything noteworthy. I think this is the most anyone has ever written on Padoin. I'll stop now.
Pirlo: 7 - Was offly static and sloppy in the first half, and then that pass came to Vidal for the second goal and we were all like "yeah, that's Pirlo everybody. That's why he is still one of the best." Not one of his best games, but he did his job in the second half and then got the rest he deserved.
Pogba: 7 - He's clearly learned when to be more physical and when to protect the ball better. His runs late in the game were refreshing as well. Didn't take many outside shots which I always feel can do more.
Vidal: 7.5 - Every Juve fan was scared Arturo will get another yellow (as he usually does every game) and be suspended for the first leg of the quarter final. What we actually saw from the King, however, was a very composed, controlled performance in which he defended very well, moved around quite a bit and broke the monotony around Pirlo and the defense, then helped heavily in attack setting up Quagliarella for the tap in and having a couple opportunities to score himself. My man of match on the day.
Peluso: 6 - Tough game for the newcomer who certainly doesn't ever think things twice. He does what he wants, when he wants. I have a weird respect for him for doing that. He had a bad start to the game today and never really recovered. Was beat on several occasions and in turn couldn't put pressure on Celtic's defense down the left. One to forget and move on for Peluso.
Quagliarella: 7.5 - Ladies and gentlemen, Juventus' top scorer in the Champions League this year as it stands right now. 4 goals so far, this one mostly created by Pirlo and Vidal but nonetheless, Quagliarella had a good game and worked hard to be dangerous throughout the full 90 minutes. Matri said in the post match interview that Quagliarella brings him luck, so I guess that's a skill as well. Fabio didn't blow anyone away today, but he put in a stellar game and scored for good measure. All we can ask of him, really.
Matri: 7.5 - Another game, another goal for Matri. I'm loving it. In typical fashion, his tap-in off a rebound settled any remaining nerves among the team and fans and truly put the tie away early in the first half. He seems to like playing with Quagliarella, even though I think he's better when playing with Vucinic. Was always ready to be a danger to Celtic's defense.
Conte: 7.5 - Even with Marrone, Peluso, Padoin, Pogba, Matri, and Quagliarella all starting, the team kept its structure and did the job that was asked of them. Credit to Conte who was not only constantly snipping at them from the sideline, but also prepared the team well for each game. An even bigger test awaits him in the quarter finals. Should be fun.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
Statistics are great, but I'm keeping my feet on the ground - Best defense in the Champions League, second best scoring record, undefeated, 5 games and 495 minutes without conceding a goal. One of top 8 teams in Europe. Sounds pretty impressive and you can't argue with the numbers. Juventus' progress is evident. But that's all that is for now - progress. We haven't really achieved anything yet, and there are still more than half the teams remaining who are definitely better teams than us. Can we take them in a two-leg round? Of course, we can play against anyone and anything can happen in this beautiful game. But realistically, any team not as toothless as Celtic would've given us a lot more trouble in the round of 16. One thing we can be sure of - against any team we play we will be well prepared and organized defensively. I don't think we'll be able to continue our trend of clinical scoring and clean sheets much longer, and I certainly don't have any illusions that we are now one of the favorites to win the Champions League. I'm keeping my feet on the ground with one certainty in mind - whomever we draw on March 15 better not take us for granted - this Juve team is strong and it fights. And in the great competition that is the Champions League, only the strong survive.
FINO ALLA FINE, FORZA JUVENTUS!