Xavi: Celtic too big for Champions League qualifiers

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Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi believes Scottish Premier League side Celtic should automatically qualify for the Champions League group stages and said the club should be targeting a final 16 place this season.

The Hoops are set to discover their opponents in the Champions League second qualifying round when the draw takes place on Monday afternoon.

The SPL champions are set to return to competitive action at the start of next month and they will need to get through three rounds of qualifying matches in order to progress into the Champions League group stages.

Last season, Celtic managed to qualify for the group stages for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign with victories over Lincoln Red Imps, Astana and Hapoel Beer-Sheva.

Speaking to the Daily Record, the legendary Spaniard believes that it is unfair that Celtic are required to compete in the qualifying rounds but he does feel that the club should have enough quality to reach the knockout stages next season.

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

“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.”

“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.”

Celtic have failed to progress to the Champions League knockout stages since the 2012-13 campaign where they were eliminated by Juventus, after qualifying from a group featuring Barcelona.

The former midfield maestro played against the SPL side eight times in the Champions League, recording a total of six wins and scoring one goal in the Round of 16 tie during the 2007-08 season.

Xavi is a player who knows what it takes to win the elite competition as he lifted the Champions League trophy four times during his successful career at the Camp Nou.

Xavi made an incredible 743 appearances for Barcelona and now plays at Al-Sadd in the Qatar Stars League.

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