Scott Brown believes he faces tougher competition than ever for a place in the Celtic midfield as manager Neil Lennon prepares to step up his squad rotation.
Lennon stated this weekend that he would have a conversation with the 35-year-old about “dipping in and out”, saying there would be times his skipper could do with a rest to make sure he is ready for the “really intense games”.
Brown and central midfield partner Callum McGregor are the only two players to start all nine Celtic games this season but the captain accepts there will be times when he sits out.
“It’s up to the manager,” said Brown as he promoted Celtic’s new book, ‘The Official Story of Nine In A Row’.
“Sometimes he might think I need a rest, sometimes he might think somebody else needs a rest.
“Odsonne (Edouard) had a rest at the weekend there because he has played a lot of games and he was away with France.
“That’s up to the manager, he picks the team for that game depending on everyone’s form, how people are feeling, whether people have got little niggles as well.
“I have got great respect for the manager so, whoever he picks, we all stand by him.”
Brown and McGregor’s importance to Lennon’s plans has seen Olivier Ntcham compete for a place further forward with Ryan Christie.
David Turnbull is waiting for his full debut following his move from Motherwell and Tom Rogic is yet to feature this season.
January signing Ismaila Soro has only played 12 minutes while the strength of depth in midfield means Nir Bitton is increasingly viewed as a defender.
“Competition is great in the middle of the park,” Brown said. “That’s probably the strongest for competition there has been since I have been here.
“There’s about seven or eight midfielders that could play in three spots.
“It’s always going to be hard but everyone has got to fight for their place. We have to make sure we work hard in training and make sure everyone is injury-free as well so that we can last this whole campaign as well.”
Lennon has strengthened throughout in recent weeks, from goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas, centre-back Shane Duffy, Turnbull to forward Albian Ajeti, who netted his fourth goal in five league games after Edouard was rested against Livingston.
“That’s the one thing the gaffer wanted to add, he wanted to add some quality so that we could rest players and chop and change and change formations as well,” Brown said.
“He has done that and brought in some great players. The good thing is we can play 3-5-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, we can play whatever we want during the game with the players we have in there.
“Odsonne can drop into a 10 nice and easy, he can play up top as well but he can drop off. Albie is the one that’s been holding the line, holding the ball in and he’s been creating chances and scoring some great goals as well.
“Competitions is good and it’s what pushes everyone on and that’s what we need in this squad.”
Celtic moved one point off Rangers with a game in hand after Hibernian held the Scottish Premiership leaders to a 2-2 draw following the champions’ 3-2 win over Livingston on Saturday.
Rangers had the opportunity to open up a significant gap after Celtic had two games postponed in the wake of Boli Bolingoli’s Covid-19 breach during their draw with Kilmarnock.
But Lennon’s side have won five league games on the trot including a rearranged game against St Mirren, while Rangers have dropped points against Livi and Hibs.
“We take it one game at a time,” Brown said.
“We are not going to play inch-perfect football every week. There are always going to be teams scoring against you, individual errors as well.
“But it’s about how you bounce back and the lads have been unbelievable for the last nine seasons, because there’s always going to be ups and downs. It’s about how you get over these hurdles.”
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