On paper, Celtic did everything they should have done against Juventus, but football is a match that’s mostly decided on execution, not planning and tactics. The Juve midfield might have been subdued for most of the match but eventually, their superiority when it came to quality, presented by the finishing of Claudio Marchisio, was a bit too much.
It was always going to be a tough road assignment – Celtic rarely lose at home in a Champions League match. In fact, Barcelona are the only side to beat them at Celtic Park (twice) out of the 23 home matches Celtic have had there. An early goal ruins all the plans, and after Juventus withstood the early pressure, Celtic’s tactical formation broke down, and Juventus had a chance to finish the two legs in one day.
And when you come down to it – Celtic playing in a formation that has given Juventus problems this season – a 4-3-3 that turns into a 4-3-1-2 on defense in order to make life very hard on Andrea Pirlo, thus clogging the entire Juventus attacking play, it was about weathering the storm. Celtic gave Juventus a lot of trouble with their set pieces, and created plenty of half chances from long range, but nothing clear cut. As the night went on and the frustration grew with it, the 2 vs 2 Juventus had on attack against Ambrose and Wilson paid off.
There are few midfielders in the world who take advantage of space like Claudio Marchisio. He’s not one to hold the ball much or do wizardry with it – both Vidal and Pirlo are better passers. But Marchisio work rate on the pitch is incredible, and he has the intelligence to recognize situations in which it’s best for him to go unnoticed and attack the box. While Celtic’s two centre backs were preoccupied with Juve’s strikers as the Celtic pressure wore off, without the midfielders dropping back to help, Marchisio and Vidal to a lesser extent had all the space and time in the world.
Both Marchisio and Vucinic’s goals came down to very poor defending, but it began with excellent pressure on the defense. Celtic weren’t prepared for that; their game plan was to press Juventus, score early and then try to make of it another “Barcelona” type of win. The heroic type, when players leave their blood, sweat and guts on the pitch in order to deny Juve a goal. That planned was scrapped very early, and Celtic had to play a game they aren’t built for, against a side that even without its best defender hardly made mistakes, and made the most of the few opportunities they had.