‘COMEBACK BHOYS WILL ADD QUALITY’

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DAVIE HAY reckons Celtic have the quality and strength in depth to cope with the rigours of qualifying for the Champions League group stages.

Brendan Rodgers side face the possibility of four games – starting with AEK Athens at Parkhead tonight – before booking their place among Europe’s elite for the third successive season.

The Irishman has identified the targets he believes will boost his playing resources, but so far the board have failed to add to summer signings Odsonne Edouard and Scott Bain.

However, club legend Hay said: “I firmly believe Celtic can negotiate their way into the group stages without worrying too much about any quick additions to the squad.

“With the players they have returning now, such as Dedryck Boyata, Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Leigh Griffiths, it will really add depth before you even consider any potential signings.

There is a slight added complication in that league games will now become a factor in between qualifiers, but I think Celtic have the depth to cope with that.

“Okay, if they do make the groups and have to take that step up again, then you might see some quality added in one or two areas, but they have shown that they have the personnel who can cope with what is immediately ahead of them.”

The former Hoops player and manager added: “AEK Athens will be a step up from Rosenborg, in my view, but they haven’t started their season yet and Celtic will have the edge in terms of match sharpness and fitness.

“But the Rosenborg tie has shown the blueprint and Celtic must make sure that they again take a good lead to Athens on Tuesday.

“They handled the threat of the Norwegians really well, but obviously the further they progress, the higher the quality of attacking threat they will face.

“That’s why it was encouraging to see the whole team defending well the other night, and that bodes well for the rest of the qualifiers.

“Defence is the area that has caused most concern for the supporters over the summer, particularly at centre-back with such a young pairing in Jack Hendry and Kris Ajer.

“But you have to say that those two did extremely well in Trondheim. Goalkeeper Craig Gordon made a couple of decent saves, too, but what was striking for me was the way that the collective unit performed together defensively.

“And I’ve been really impressed with how sharp the team have looked so far. They have come back in great nick and, having had the experiences of going through these qualifiers in the last few seasons, they seem to have adapted even quicker this season than they did in previous years.”

* DON’T miss all the action from tonight’s big game at Parkhead with the best match report in your champion CQN.

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