Celtic face Juventus in the first-leg of their last 16 Champions League tie tonight as Europe’s top footie competition enters the knock-out stages.
Neil Lennon’s side are brimming with confidence at present after winning 12 of their last 13 matches in the Scottish Premier League and were unbeaten at home in the group stages of the tournament including a famous 2-1 win against Barcelona. The Bhoys can also point to a record that sees them unbeaten at home in their last eight games against Serie A opposition.
George Samaras – Celtic’s leading scorer in the Champions League with three goals – faces a late fitness test but 13-goal striker in the SPL Gary Hooper will play.
Juve had to win their last three games to top their group but the reigning Italian champions won’t want to underestimate their Glasgow rivals who will revel in their under-dog’s role.
Valencia are in top form in La Liga winning five of their last seven games and drawing 1-1 with Barca but face a PSG team who top Ligue 1 in France. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – with 21 goals in the league – will lead the line for PSG who only conceded three goals in the Group stages. New signing David Beckham is unavailable but could line up against Marseille and Joey Barton on February 24.
Liverpool’s season took a backward step last night when they were turned over 2-0 at home to Steve Clarke’s West Brom. Brendan Rodgers refused to blame his players who face a tricky tie away in the Europa League to Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday (5pm) .
The weights for the Aintree Grand National are revealed later today as the countdown begins to the world’s greatest steeple chase on April 6.
Southwell , Ayr and Lingfield get the go ahead today while there’s also live streaming of the action from South Africa and South America for you to enjoy.
With one eye on the weekend Captain Chris and Finian’s Rainbow head the early betting for the Ascot Chase on Saturday. Nicky Henderson won this race last year with Riverside Theatre who went on to win the Ryanair Chase at the Festival. Reigning Champion Chaser Finian’s Rainbow got stuck in the mud on his only appearance at Ascot this season and Captain Chris reverts to two miles after finishing second to Long Run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
David Pipe’s Grands Crus has been scratched from the Gold Cup by his trainer but left in the Ryanair Chase and intriguingly the World Hurdle. A flop when favourite for the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November he then bounced back to finish third in the King George – although beaten 17 lengths by Long Run.
Another under-par effort for the Argento Chase has seen Pipe decide to change tack with the popular grey who is quoted at 14/1 for the Ryanair Chase with Paddy Power.
Peter Casey’s Flemenstar is 90 per cent likely to miss the Festival. Tests revealed he had a lung infection after he was beaten into second by Sir Des Champs in the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday.
Next Pope betting
With Pope Benedict taking early retirement at 85 the world is watching to see who will become the next Pontiff – and Paddy’s all over it. The world’s favourite bookmaker has a direct line to the Vatican – through the Rome office – and has priced up the likely runners and riders for the Catholic Church’s top job.
The last two men to get the keys to the Pope Mobile were Polish and Germans but an African or South American Pope has been hotly tipped and is 2/1 and 10/3 in country of next Pope betting.
Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson has attracted early money (3/1) as has Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze at 9/2 while Argentina’s Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (6/1) and Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga from Honduras (7/1) could see the Vatican recognise the growth in Catholicism on both continents.
Pope Benedict steps down at the end of the month – with the new man likely to be in place a month later.