Xavi: Celtic shouldn’t face Champions League qualifiers

Xavi, left, squaring off against Celtic in 2004. Picture: Neil Hanna

Xavi, left, squaring off against Celtic in 2004. Picture: Neil Hanna

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Barcelona legend Xavi believes a club of Celtic’s size should gain automatic entry into the Champions League group stages.

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The veteran midfielder, who won four European Cups during his time at the Camp Nou, also feels Celtic should be aiming for progression to the last 16 in this year’s competition.

Brendan Rodgers and his side will find out who their opponents are later this morning when the draw for the second qualifying round is made.

Even though the Scottish champions have been dealt a tough hand, Xavi, who now plays his football in Qatar, stressed the importance of the players concentrating on the task at hand.

He said: “I don’t think that Celtic should be a club that has to qualify for the Champions League.

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“When you consider the size of the club, their history, their stadium – they should qualify automatically by winning their league. But rules are rules and they have to make sure they quality.

“With Rodgers as coach and players they now have, I think Celtic’s ambition should be more than qualifying for the group stage, it should be to make it to the last 16.

“The most important thing is that Celtic keep their big players – Dembele was one of the top forwards in Europe last season and any club must firstly make sure that they keep their best players.

“If they want to go up a level in the Champions League they must also look to add some quality.

“Even if it is a loan player from one of the big clubs in England – it’s important they have players who have experience of playing at the highest level.”

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