Chris Sutton: Celtic boss playing mind games with ‘Maeda Miracle’

We were all absolutely flabbergasted when the rumour emerged online that Daizen Maeda could be back in contention at some point during this season’s title run-in. The Japanese winger has been an essential part of Celtic’s success these past few years in domestic football and since arriving from the J-League, he has given our rivals nightmares at times.

Daizen Maeda of Celtic looks on from the stands during the Scottish Cup Semi Final match between Aberdeen and Celtic at Hampden Park on April 20, 2024. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

In particular, has skewered a certain right-back that plays out of Ibrox more times than the tongue could tell and managed to get a goal out of his sloppy play at the back in just 21 seconds on our last visit to Edminston Drive. The news that emanated from Celtic Park lately that he had sustained a hamstring injury and that his season was now most likely over, was enough to make us all worry slightly about how we would cope during these last few remaining colossal matches, including two against theRangers.

Daizen Maeda scores in the first minute of a Scottish Premiership football match against theRangers on April 7, 2024 at Ibrox. Photo Imago

Chris Sutton has been using his Daily Record column this weekend to reveal his belief that Brendan Rodgers is perhaps cranking up the mind games with the Scottish Premiership coming to a crescendo, in the hopes it might cause a few blinks from Phillipe Clement and his team. They’ve already had a couple of mishaps lately and it does seem that the pressure of the chase is getting to them ever so slightly. Our former striker reckons that the Celtic boss is looking to pile it on with a trowel now, in light of the first chink appearing in the Ibrox armour. “It’s the time of the season for mind games, with bluffs and double bluffs to gain some kind of psychological advantage for the run in,” he said.

Daizen Maeda celebrates with teammate and compatriot Tomoki Iwata

“That might be the case with Brendan Rodgers when it comes to Daizen Maeda. One minute his season was over. The next he might be back. Will he have a major role to play in huge games like the Premiership and Scottish Cup derbies? Who knows. But what we do know is if Maeda does get back – and back near his usual levels – then it will be a massive boost for Rodgers and Celtic at this crucial stage of the campaign. Look, the way some people are talking it’s like hearing Messi is on his way. I wouldn’t quite go that far as you still never really know where the final ball is going with him.”

Daizen Maeda of Celtic celebrates scoring his team’s first goal with teammates during the Scottish Cup Quarter Final match between Celtic and Livingston at Celtic Park on March 10, 2024. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

He said: “Yet there is absolutely no doubt he is an important player for Celtic and a big miss when he’s not around. The other wingers at the club have not exactly hit the heights in his absence, with Yang continuing to blow hot and cold and Nicolas Kuhn also being a bit of a mixed bag. You are never sure of what you are going to get from the pair. James Forrest made a huge impression from the bench at Hampden last week and you would think he has a major part to play in the coming weeks. It’s hard to tell though. Rodgers has called Forrest his best wide man this season – but then not played him for weeks.

 Daizen Maeda of Celtic shoots at goal during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and Livingston FC at Celtic Park Stadium on December 23, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“I know he’s getting on a bit but he’s 32-year-old – not 52. Forrest is under appreciated somewhat by Celtic fans but if he gets his chance in the run in, he’s already proved he is a big-game player. All eyes will be on Maeda and that Old Firm game on May 11 though. And Celtic supporters reckon James Tavernier will be having sleepless nights about the thought of going up against the Japanese flying machine. That might be a bit much but it’s true the Rangers captain has had his troubles against the wide man.”

Heart of Midlothian v Celtic –  Daizen Maeda celebrates scoring Celtic’s second goal of the game during the cinch Premiership match at Tynecastle on Sunday October 22, 2023. Photo Steve Welsh

He added: “His goal in last month’s 3-3 draw was about the most Daizen Maeda goal ever and there was one at Ibrox last season when the pressure on Tavernier forced a mistake. His pace and pressing is a nightmare to deal with but, more importantly, the threat of a burst in behind tends to keep Tavernier from getting too adventurous at the other end. That’s vital, because his delivery from the wide areas is very good – and that kind of thing has been a problem for Celtic this season. It’s also why everyone should forget all about the upcoming derby for now. Anyone who thinks this title race is over is kidding themselves on.”

Paul Gillespie

ON CELTIC SHORTS…Clement serves Belgian waffle and the spineless SMSM laps it up

About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.

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