Chris Sutton reckons Brendan Rodgers' handling of Daizen Maeda's injury comeback could be a double bluff.

The Celtic hero has raised his suspicions over whether the Japanese forward, 26, really is ready for a return to first-team action just weeks after it was expected he'd be ruled out for the remainder of the season.

The pundit has pointed to the importance of winning the physiological battle, as well as the fight on the pitch during the title run-in with Rangers.

And it's for that reason, with Maeda's presence providing the potential to cause James Tavernier some sleepless nights, that Sutton reckons it could all be hearsay from the Hoops gaffer.

He wrote in his Daily Record column: "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.

"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.

READ MORE: Nicolas Kuhn on how pressure for places helps Celtic thrive

"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.

"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.

"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."