BRENDAN RODGERS is adamant Celtic have earned the right to a seat at the Champions League top table.
As he prepared the team for tonight’s Champions League play-off against Hapoel Be’er Sheva at Parkhead, the Hoops boss admitted concern at UEFA plans to head off a super league by offering guaranteed qualification to four clubs from the top four leagues in England, Spain, Germany and Italy.A meeting of UEFA’s Executive Committee is expected to rubber-stamp the move on September 14/15.

SPFL chief Neil Doncaster has already warned of the “sinister” impact the plans could have on the future qualification chances of champions from the likes of Scotland, Holland, Portugal, Belgium and other small nations.img_1861.jpg

Rodgers said: “I think for European football, they need the big clubs in there. But Celtic is a big club, a huge club.

“The competition is a better place for clubs such as Celtic and Ajax, teams with this great history of the European Cup and Champions League.

“I can understand there will powers-that-be who want these clubs in there, but Celtic has the right to be in there. If we are fighting and are champions, then we have every right to be in there.

“It’s not just for the club, it is for the opposition, as well, because for them to come to Celtic Park is an experience many great players over the years have spoken about.

“It is one of the best experiences they have ever had.

“So, European football deserves Celtic at the top table.

“Okay, there obviously have to be conditions for the other clubs to get there, as well. I understand and respect the money in England.

“I was a part of it for a number of years. I see where that’s at.

“But surely it’s not all about the money. It’s about the prestige and there has to be a door open and a door wide enough for the type of club like Celtic and the great historical clubs of European football.”

A financial windfall of £20million-plus awaits the winners of the Scotland v Israel champions over the next week, with the second leg scheduled for Tuesday.

Celtic are well aware of the dangers of being thrust aside in a power grab by clubs from England, Germany, Italy and Spain and that will provide an additional motivation for the Parkhead side to qualify for the group stage for the first time since 2013/14.Rodgers added: “There are many reasons why we want to be in there. I think it helps us in our standing as a nation here in Scotland.

“With how it has worked over the last couple of years, things have come down a little bit in terms of all the seedings you get.

“For us, we see it as an obligation of the big club to try and make that step in.

“That, hopefully, gives more power and pride back into the nation here.

“We accept that responsibility as a great club.”

Ten Months of Celtic Heaven – That Season in Paradise is the latest book from CQN Bookstore and is available now.
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