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Champions League: Juventus emerging as the real deal

Claudio Marchisio celebrates his goal against Celtic in Glasgow

"After beating and drawing with holders Chelsea in the group stage and dispatching Barcelona-conquering Celtic with such precision last night, Juventus really announced themselves back among the elite."

Having effectively booked their quarter-final place by picking off Celtic 3-0 in Glasgow, Christian Crowther puts Juventus under the spotlight...

By the time Juventus's third goal was expertly rolled into the net by Mirko Vucinic, Celtic's hopes of qualification were effectively sunk already.

No amount of grumbling from the occupants of the ITV studio could change the fact that Celtic's visitors had just orchestrated the perfect Italian job, some penalty box manual handling included.

But where does this result place Juve among the current European elite and, crucially, are they serious contenders for Champions League glory?

With the tie against Celtic firmly put to bed, it's unsurprising to see Juventus strengthen their position in the Barcelona and Real Madrid-chasing pack in the winners market, now rated at 11.010/1.

It's becoming harder to ignore Juventus as serious contenders with evidence mounting up both in Europe and on the domestic front.  

Although they were missing from any form of European competition last season, they more than made up for it at home by storming to the Serie A title undefeated, and were only denied a double by Napoli in the Coppa Italia final.

While Antonio Conte's side have succumbed to three league defeats in this campaign, their dominance remains by way of a five-point gap at present, even with a Champions League campaign to distract them.

This Juventus team is marshalled exquisitely by Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio and it's no coincidence that the pair represented the heartbeat of the Italian national side which made it all the way to the Euro 2012 final.

In fact, Juve's rejuvenation process after a two-year absence from the Champions League is indicative of the general resurgence in Italian football and it's refreshing to see after several years of scandal.

Despite not possessing one single superstar striker either, this side has plenty of regular contributors which more than make up for it, not least two of Celtic's scourges Alessandro Matri and Vucinic, chipping in with a combined 17 goals to date.

They are so solid at the back too, with the pick of the Italian national defence at their disposal in Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and the currently sidelined Giorgio Chiellini.

After beating and drawing with holders Chelsea in the group stage and dispatching Barcelona-conquering Celtic with such precision last night, Juventus really announced themselves back among the elite.

The Old Lady of Turin has come out of her slumber.

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13 February 2013

Champions League

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