ABERDEEN boss Derek McInnes is relieved Ryan Christie is banned for Celtic’s visit to Pittodrie on Sunday.
The playmaker was red-carded in the Hoops’ 2-0 loss at Livingston for an uncharacteristic high challenge on Scott Robinson and was immediately hit with a two-game Premiership suspension.
Christie sat out the 6-0 rout of Ross County at Parkhead last weekend and will be in the stand again when Neil Lennon takes his champions to the north east for what is certain to be a tense confrontation.
McInnes, of course, had Christie on loan at Pittodrie for 18 months and was eager to make the deal permanent last summer, but Brendan Rodgers recalled the Highlander as he entered the last season of his contract.
After a sequence of excellent performances, Christie agreed a new three -year extension in November.
McInnes, speaking to the Press and Journal, admitted: “I said to my staff at the start of the season that he (Christie) could be Scotland’s Player of the Year this year. He just looks like he has grown into the position now of being an important Celtic player.
“When you are on the fringes of things, or you’ve been out on loan for 18 months, which he was, then you can never be sure. But now I think Celtic are a better team with him in it.
“He gives them that intensity out of possession when he is in the team.
“In possession, he brings the quality as well as the work-rate. He is as good, technically, as any player playing in the league. But he is without doubt the hardest-working player in the league, and I say it to all my younger players who have the ability, they should be looking at what Ryan Christie has in his game – his tenacity, his sheer will-to-win.
“He plays on the edge sometimes – we saw that against Livingston – but I think that makes him what he is.”
The Hoops clinched an eighth successive Premiership title with a 3-0 victory on their last visit to Pittodrie in May when Neil Lennon was in caretaker charge following Rodgers’ departure to Leicester City in February.
Australian international Tom Rogic, who came on as a late substitute in the dramatic 2-1 Europa League Group E win over Lazio in Glasgow last night, is likely to deputise.