BRAVE Scott Brown has lost his battle to avoid surgery on his hip and will have to go under the knife.
Celtic and the 27-year-old had hoped this drastic step could be avoided with careful management of the irritation to the ball of the joint.
But, after taking advice from what manager Neil Lennon described as "around 15 specialists", it has become clear a visit to the operating table is all that is going to allow the Hoops skipper to ease the pain from this degenerative condition and let him keep on going.
Lennon is hopeful the surgery can be delayed to a suitable time for player, club and country.
But, Brown has already been forced to miss nine of Celtic's 22 games this season, plus a few internationals.
And, though he is in contention to face Aberdeen today and Benfica on Tuesday, surgery could be forced upon him sooner rather than later.
The end of the year would offer one possibility as the champions would be about to head into the winter break and their European destiny will be decided.
Lennon said: "There will come a time when he is going to have to have the surgery.
"But, we are just gauging when that is going to be.
"That is all in hand with the medical people."
As per normal, it will be left until the last minute before deciding if Brown plays against Aberdeen today.
Lennon understands how important his presence will be in Lisbon on Tuesday, when a score draw against Benfica would be enough to see the Hoops qualify for the Last 16 of the Champions League, provided Spartak don't beat Barcelona in Moscow.
But, the Parkhead boss must juggle his resources with a clutch of other injured players receiving treatment.
Joe Ledley has been added to the list, though Lennon reckons he will be okay for Tuesday.
Kris Commons missed Scotland's win in Luxembourg in midweek with a hip problem, but Lennon said: "I think Kris was pulled out of the game as a precaution. Gary Hooper will start training again tomorrow, along with Thomas Rogne.
"With James Forrest, at first we thought it was hamstring strain, but it looks like it could be a neural problem. He has damaged a nerve. We will let that settle down and take him with us on Monday. I think Hooper, Brown and Ledley should be okay for next week."
Lennon acknowledges how important the next four days will be and said: "Benfica is huge, it is pivotal. But both these games are huge.
"Just off the back of our recent league form, it's important we get back to winning ways."
Meanwhile, Celtic have invited 19 year-old Chivas USA striker, Juan Agudelo, to train with them for a week.
The hottest property in the MLS has already won 16 caps for America and has spent time with Liverpool and Stuttgart.