Celtic are too big a club to face Champions League qualifiers, says Barcelona legend Xavi
Spanish superstar Xavi last night insisted Celtic should be put straight into the Champions League group stage.
Brendan Rodgers’ team will find out their opponents in today’s qualifying draw for Europe’s premier club competition.
But Barcelona legend Xavi is adamant the Hoops are too big to be forced to scrap with the minnows. Celtic will discover who they’ll play in the second qualifying round when UEFA make the draw this lunchtime.
They could face the likes of Luxembourg’s F91 Dudelange, Albanian’s Kukesi, Ireland’s Dundalk and Latvia’s Spartaks Jurmala.
But Xavi reckons Scotland’s champions shouldn’t be asked to play three rounds of qualifiers to reach the groups.
He said: “I don’t think that Celtic should be a club that has to qualify for the Champions League.
“When you consider the size of the club, their history, their stadium – they should qualify automatically by winning their league.
“But the rules are the rules and the important thing is that they qualify for the group stages.”
The 37-year-old experienced European nights at Parkhead during a host of clashes against Celtic while pulling the strings in midfield for Barca and he believes with Rodgers at the helm, a place in the Champions League knockout stage must be their ambition.
Xavi, now with Qatari club Al Sadd, also claimed the Hoops must retain top talents like Moussa Dembele while recruiting a couple of signings who have tasted success at the peak of European football.
He said: “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.”