SCOTT BROWN is likely to get the nod to return to the Celtic midfield for the crunch encounter against Rangers on Saturday.
That’s the view of former Hoops star Charlie Nicholas as his old team play catch-up in the race for their tenth successive title.
Neil Lennon will prepare his players for tomorrow afternoon’s visit from Dundee United at the same time Steven Gerrard’s pacesetters play in Paisley against their Betfred League Cup conquerors St Mirren.
And then the focus will be on Ibrox for the 12.30pm showdown between the Glasgow giants.
Nicholas, writing in his Daily Express column, said: “Celtic need to go across the city, impose themselves and lay down a marker.
“Rangers have had the upperhand in recent Old Firm derbies – even the ones they have lost – and they have caused Celtic problems in the wide areas. That is where Lennon will have a headache when it comes to his starting XI.
“In midfield, I would probably pick Ryan Christie, David Turnbull and Mohamed Elyounoussi, with Callum McGregor behind them.
“But I can see Lennon turning to Scott Brown.
“He has been a big player in these fixtures and although his performances have been on the wane, the captain still has the experience and know-how of derby day.
“He also came up with a strong performance in the Scottish Cup Final.”
Nicholas has overlooked the claims of all-action Ivorian Ismaila Soro who has deputised for the club’s 35-year-old onfield leader in recent outings.
Elsewhere in the Hoops formation, the one-time Celtic, Scotland and Arsenal hitman commented: “Leigh Griffiths and Odsonne Edouard started the last two games and Lennon needs to keep the pair partnered in attack against Rangers.
“Conor Hazard will be in goal and Lennon must do everything in his power to protect the rookie keeper.
“I would go for a back four of Kris Ajer, Nir Bitton, Christopher Jullien and Diego Laxalt.”
That would see Jeremie Frimpong and Greg Taylor dropping out which may be a bit of a surprise to many. The Dutch ace was flying in the 3-0 win over Hamilton Accies at New Douglas Park at the weekend where the Scotland international left-back also put in a determined shift.
Nicholas added: “Steven Gerrard will be able to pick his strongest team, with the exception of Ryan Jack who is making slow progress in his recovery from injury.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Alfredo Morelos starts. The Colombian has played in a formation that has caused Celtic problems in the past.
“I can see this being an action-packed derby so I’m predicting a 2-2 scoreline, which would keep things ticking over in the title race.”