BRENDAN RODGERS has hinted Reo Hatate could make his long-awaited return in the derby at Parkhead on Saturday.

Could the Celtic manager be indulging in a little blarney before a crucial encounter? Is the Irishman bluffing to give Philippe Clement someting extra to contemplate as the Belgian prepares to take his bow in front of a 60,000 sell-out crowd in the east end of Glasgow?

Rodgers is a master of kidology and insists the influential midfielder is poised for a comeback after battling back from a hamstring problem which has severely interrupted his progress this season.

CAPITAL PERFORMANCE…Reo Hatate is challenged by fellow-Japanese Elichiro Oda in Celtic’s 4-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle in October 22.

Hatate limped off in the seventh minute of the home 2-2 Champions League draw with Atletico Madrid on October 25 and has not been seen since, missing THIRTEEN consecutive games.

David Turnbull, Paulo Bernardo, Tomoki Iwata and Odin Holm have all figured alongside Callum McGrgeor and Matt O’Riley in the Hoops’ engine room during the Japanese international’s enforced lay-offs.

Asked whether the player could feature before the turn of the year with the champions also due to play Dundee at Dens Park tomorrow afternoon, Rodgers, speaking to the Glasgow Times, answered: “Possibly, but we have to see on that.

“He’s been on the grass and he’s been working well. He looks strong and fit, we just have to assess and weigh up the risk.

“Reo is such an instrumental player and he gives the team a dynamic.”

GLASGOW BELONGS TO US…two-goal Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda celebrate their derby debut following the 3-0 hammering of Ibrox opposition at Parkhead on February 2 2022.

Hatate, of course, has form in the frenzied all-Glasgow duels after hitting a memorable first-half double on his baptism in the fixture on February 2 2022, just a month after his arrival from the J-League along with Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi.

Liel Abada fired in the other goal that gave Ange Postecoglou’s side an overwhelming interval advantage over Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s shell-shocked side on the Hoops’ way to a rousing 3-0 triumph that propelled the team to the Premiership pinnacle for the first time in 18 months.

They remained in pole position to lift their tenth title in 11 years.

Hatate has already emphasised his pedigree as a big-game player, but is a derby crunch match just too much too soon?

Bluff? Or no bluff?

We may be offered a clue if Rodgers includes the playmaker in his match day squad for Tayside tomorrow.

We await the next instalment in Hatate’s Celtic adventure with bated breath.

*FAIRYTALE OF NEWCO (with apologies to Shane MacGowan)

*CQN wishes all our readers the compliments of the Festive season. Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year, folks!

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