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Neil Lennon will give Scott Brown time to rest and recover

By Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon will manage Scott Brown's ongoing hip injury with a view to helping the Celtic skipper be ready for Scotland's crunch 2014 World Cup qualifiers next month.

Craig Levein was unable to use the 27-year-old midfielder for the Scots' opening two home qualifiers against Serbia and Macedonia but the former Hibernian player has appeared in Celtic's last three matches.

The Hoops boss will leave Brown out of tonight's Scottish Communities League Cup third-round clash with Irn-Bru First Division side Raith Rovers at Parkhead to give him a rest and increase the chances of his availability for the club's upcoming Champions League games.

However, Lennon is also keen to see his on-form captain return to Levein's squad for Scotland's away double-header in Wales and Belgium next month.

“We feel it is an opportunity to give him a free week,” said Lennon. “We should have enough cover. There are a lot of games coming up and he needs rest after three games in a week.

“We will try to base his programme around playing for us, obviously and making sure he is fit for Scotland as well. We don't discourage players playing for their country. Obviously Celtic come first in my priorities but I know Scotland have two big games coming up next month and Scott will want to play in both of them. I just hope we can manage him to be able to play in them.”

Even Brown's biggest critics have been impressed by his recent performances, particularly in the goalless Champions League Group G draw against Benfica at Parkhead last week.

Lennon has been Brown's staunchest supporter since becoming manager and believes the player is approaching his peak.

“He is a fantastic athlete, one of the best I have seen,” said the former Celtic skipper. “Since I took over he has been a model of consistency.

“His attitude has been magnificent and his form at the minute comes as no surprise to me.”

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