Lennon to rest Brown for cup clash

PA Sport
Neil Lennon feels Celtic can cope without Scott Brown, pictured, on Tuesday
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Neil Lennon feels Celtic can cope without Scott Brown, pictured, on Tuesday

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 Tuesday night's Scottish Communities League Cup third-round clash with Irn-Bru First Division side Raith Rovers at Parkhead. Lennon said: "We feel it is an opportunity to give him a free week. We should have enough cover. There are a lot of games coming up and he needs rest after three games in a week."

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 will try to base his programme around playing for us, obviously and making sure he is fit for Scotland as well," Lennon added. "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."

Despite giving Brown the night off for the visit of Raith, Lennon was keen to stress how serious he was taking the threat of the Kirkcaldy men.

Celtic have lost in the last two finals of the competition against Rangers and Kilmarnock respectively, and the former Northern Ireland international is looking to make it third time lucky.

"All these early games are loaded with potential upsets and I don't want to be one of them," he said. "It is a game we are not taking lightly and I can't imagine I will be making too many changes if I can avoid it. I will put a strong team out. I would like to get to the final of the competition again and go one better.

"I had Raith watched at the weekend. They are a decent First Division side but with (manager) John McGlynn going (in the summer) it is a wee bit of a transitional period for them but they are decent opposition for us. It took us a while to break Dundee down (at the weekend) and what we have to be mindful of is not to getting sloppy and complacent."

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