We must not be ‘bullied’ by would-be title rivals, says Brown
Parkhead captain respectful of threat posed but is hoping to lay down marker
SCOTT BROWN has warned that Celtic can’t allow Aberdeen to bully them if they want to win at Pittodrie this afternoon and move 10 points clear of their closest rivals in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Brown, who was rested for the league meeting with Ross County in Dingwall on Wednesday night, is set to return to Brendan Rodgers’s side at Pittodrie today.
The Parkhead club’s captain knows his team must perform at their best in the north east if they want to maintain their unbeaten domestic record in the 2016/17 campaign and extend their lead.
Derek McInnes’s men beat them twice in the league at their own stadium last season as they launched another strong, but ultimately ill-fated, challenge for the Scottish title.
Brown, who yesterday announced he had reversed his decision to retire from international football, admitted he expects Aberdeen to push them all the way this season and believes Celtic, who have a game in hand against Partick Thistle, must match their physicality in order to triumph.
“It would be huge for us if we can win,” he said. “But you can’t go in there thinking you can just go to Aberdeen which is a hard place and take the three points.
“We’ve struggled up there in the past so here’s hoping it’s a positive result for us.
“They’ve done really well up there against us for the last couple of seasons, but we have a new manager with new belief and a new philosophy with the way we are playing, and we need to make sure we go out there and step up.”
Aberdeen slipped three points further behind Celtic this week after losing 1-0 to Hamilton away at New Douglas Park on Tuesday evening and Brown believes they will have a point to prove this afternoon.
Asked if the meeting with Aberdeen would be their hardest domestic fixture of the season so far, Brown said: “Definitely. They pushed us the last couple of seasons and they’ll push us again this season.”
Rodgers made no fewer than eight changes to his team for the Premiership match against County in midweek, but Celtic still ran out resounding 4-0 winners.
Brown, who became a father for the third time this week when his wife gave birth to their third son, believes the competition for places that exists at Parkhead will ensure they continue their impressive start to the season.
“The gaffer wants us on our toes and doesn’t want the standard to drop,” he said.
“If somebody does drop out of form then you always have someone who is coming in to that position. For me everyone played really well against County. I watched the game and enjoyed it.”
And with a growing number of clubs showing an interest in Moussa Dembele as a result of his goalscoring heroics, it seems unavoidable that he will depart Celtic in the not-too-distant future.
Manchester United, who sent a scout to Dingwall on Wednesday, are the latest party to be linked with a player who cost £500,000 in the summer.
But Brown is hoping his team-mate can see the benefits of staying at Celtic Park.
“It’s been great playing here,” said Brown. “I’ve played in the Champions League and got into the last 16.
“On Champions League nights you get nothing better than playing at Celtic Park. You ask the best players in the world that come here. They’ve struggled to win here easily and perform as they can because of the crowd.
“There have been a lot of players who have stayed here who have had great careers. There have been a lot of players who have had chance to go down south and have ended up playing relegation football while we are playing Champions League football.”
Brown added: “Moussa is a lovely character. He is a nice, honest boy. He comes in, does his training and doesn’t say too much. He isn’t big time or anything. He works hard and just chills out. You can imagine how chilled out he is just now with the way he’s been playing. As long as he is enjoying his football, hopefully he stays here for a long time as well.”
IN THE THICK OF IT: Celtic captain Scott Brown is expected to return to the starting XI at Pittodrie today