Messi: Celtic fans deserve progression to Champions League last 16

The Barcelona attacker has voiced his support for the Scottish champions to progress, citing their fans' support as deserving to see the club in the next round of the competition

Celtic's bid for qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League has been given a rousing endorsement by Barcelona star Lionel Messi, who believes their fans deserve to see the club progress.

The Argentina international has been in stunning form for the Liga side this season, and is only one goal away from equalling Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals for club and country in a single calendar year.

And the Hoops will be hoping that the 25-year-old is able to make the record his own during Barcelona's game versus Benfica, with the Portuguese side level on points with the Scottish outfit but boasting a better head-to-head record, while Celtic will have to beat Spartak Moscow to have any hope of reaching the next round.

"We have not always been supportive of the way that Celtic try and play football," Messi is quoted as saying by The Daily Record.

"However, their fans deserve the knockout stages of the Champions League as I think the competition would be a quieter place without them."

Despite changing his entire line-up prior to Wednesday's key match, manager Neil Lennon felt his players were wasteful after second division side Arbroath forced a Scottish Cup fourth-round replay at the weekend, and has called on his players for a vast improvement.

"[We are] missing too many easy chances at home for my liking," Lennon said.

"It will be no reflection on Wednesday whatsoever. Players will be fully focused and we will be hoping for a different scoreline."