The two-match suspension of Celtic midfielder Scott Brown will be a major headache for boss Gordon Strachan as he prepares for the final assault in the title battle. Strachan will look to his tried and trusted replacements to cover for the missing Broony in the upcoming away games against Aberdeen and the Huns but Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld has called upon the manager to give Massimo Donati a final opportunity to show us that he could indeed be the midfield general that we've had all too brief glimpses of.
"Whoever comes in, this is the type of opportunity they must use to make a real impression and try and cement their position in the side." said Auld. "I know that Massimo Donati has not received a good press, but I like the boy. He has loads of ability and that is what the game is all about for me. So I would love Donati to be given the chance and then it is up to him to show he could run the game for Celtic."
"He hasn't played since the Scottish Cup tie with Queen's Park back at the beginning of February." he said "And I just think if given the chance he could deliver. But Celtic are not short of options and you could also look at the young lad Willo Flood, who also strikes me as a player of real ability. Of course, you have Paul Hartley and Barry Robson, too."
The absence of Brown, though, cannot be underestimated and Auld has watched the £4.4m capture from Hibernian grow in stature since donning the Hoops. "Scott has improved tremendously at Celtic." said Bertie. "When he first arrived we knew he had a great dynamo and a real determination and will to win, but he has developed massively in his two years at Celtic Park. It is a nightmare that with the Old Firm so evenly poised in the title race we will be losing him for what will be the biggest game of the season at Rangers. I think Scott has shown an ability to really make the difference in the big games this season, like the Co-Operative Insurance Cup Final, and that will be a big blow for Celtic."
Brown's maturity and composure have been noticeable this season and it's ironic that his two-match ban is a result of offences committed last season being taken into account alongside this season's disciplinary record. "When a season is gone then everything from it should be done and dusted." said Auld. "There is no way that what happened to you last season should then come back to bite you the following season. For me that just doesn't make sense and it is really unfair on Scott. I would be saying that about whoever was being made to pay twice for something. It is not right and the system should be changed."
"One of the things I like about Scott is that he is a bit fiery and a little bit impetuous." continued Celtic legend Bertie. "That is something you can tone down in a player but also something you just can't add. He gets himself into some tremendous positions and has two great feet and I just wish he would back himself and have a go more on his own. He only has the seven goals from midfield this season and for a player of his firepower he should be into double figures.
"But I think the Celtic midfield as a unit do not look to have a shot from outside the box enough." he added. "It is all about passing the ball and looking to get into the box and that is fine, but shooting seems to be a dying art. With someone who has a dig like Scott Brown I'd love him to let fly."
Gary Caldwell and the Rangers pair Mendes and Davis join Scott Brown on the shortlist for Player of the Year but European Champions Cup winner Bertie just can't see anyone standing in the way of Celtic's midfield dynamo. "I know Mendes has great ability and class." said Auld. "And he showed that when he first came to Rangers, but since then he has pretty much faded. Steven Davis is another who has become crucial to Rangers, but he has had a spell where his presence seems to have diminished. For Celtic, Scott Brown is essential and when the going gets tough he gets going. In the first cup final of the season he dominated the midfield area and he gets my vote."