Celtic midfielder Reo Hatate is back for the dramatic climax to the Scottish Premiership season. You better believe it.

The Japanese midfielder's long-awaited comeback from injury was well worth the admission money alone in The Tony Macaroni Arena at the weekend. Hatate was rightfully showered with fulsome praise on his return to first-team action as he was imperious and largely instrumental for 65 minutes as the champions strolled to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Livingston in West Lothian.

Of the many plaudits that were attributed to Hatate one phrase shone brightly above all the rest. The phrase that was associated with the 26-year-old? The 'difference maker'. Is Hatate the missing piece in Brendan Rodgers' side jigsaw that will tilt the Scottish Premier League title race back in favour of the men in green and white?

The player himself started only his eighth game of a wretched stop/start campaign ruined by injury thus far with his last outing coming against St Mirren in the 3-0 win in Paisley back in January.

For Hatate, Rodgers and Celtic, the season could still have a sliver lining. It would rank as one of the sweetest silver linings in the club's illustrious 136-year history. Hatate was the main man under the previous manager Ange Postecoglou. Rodgers has never had the luxury of a fully fit Hatate firing on all cylinders. Up until now, that is.

READ MORE: Reo Hatate Celtic's growth under Brendan Rodgers analysed

It was apparent within seconds of looking at Hatate in action against Livingston that he was on it. He meant business and was hell-bent on making up for lost time. One of his first movements on the shambolic synthetic surface at the Tony Macaroni Arena was to receive the ball with his back to the goal and a player right up his backside. He shrugged his marker off like he wasn't there and nonchalantly shunted the ball out wide on the right to Nicholas Kuhn. There was also an exquisite dummy which freed up Alistair Johnston at one point. Hatate was back with a bang and then some.

He looked sharp all afternoon and the football brain was working in tandem with his feet. It was a gentle reminder of why Hatate is the best and most talented midfielder in Scotland... bar none. His virtuoso display at Livi was worth the entry fee alone. Hatate was a class apart and a league above everybody else on that plastic pitch at the weekend.

Yet, it was as if Hatate had never been anyway. He played with his head up. He made driving runs forward and linked the play from middle to front at all times. He strutted his funky stuff. He is also a risk-taker and whilst not every forward pass comes off for him he is never deterred in his mission to get Celtic as far up the pitch as possible and in the danger areas where they can hurt their opponents.

Hatate has always had a knack for being creative. He is uninhibited as he plays with the shackles off... always. There is a touch of elegance about Hatate. He can take and receive the ball on the turn, he can play crisp, incisive, penetrative passes that very few others occupying his position can see. He also does it at a speed, tempo and pace that can catch his opponents unaware.

He possesses superb technique, He has an unerring ability to open up a pitch at will sometimes without even touching the ball. He sees the game in pictures. More often than not Hatate implements and executes exactly what he wants to happen. It was Hatate who gave Celtic a vital spark against Livi and it genuinely seems that is exactly what Rodgers' team have been craving all season. He played a vital part in the opening goal against Livingston and helped inspire a crucial league victory.

It was apparent as well that one of the players who benefitted greatly from having Hatate's influence back in the first team was Matt O'Riley. Hatate's natural ability, game intelligence and spatial awareness were a joy to watch in West Lothian on Sunday. The Celtic players certainly fed off that and followed his lead none more so than O'Riley who got in on the goalscoring act whilst approaching something resembling his best from earlier in the campaign.

Celtic assistant John Kennedy assumed media duties due to Rodgers serving a one-game touchline ban from the SFA and he admitted that it was time to 'unleash' Hatate.

READ MORE: Kennedy on the dynamic midfielder that Celtic 'unleashed'

Kennedy said: "He (Hatate) was on it right from the first minute and he has been in training, which is why the gaffer thought to get him in the team quickly. He’s been terrific the last few weeks. He came back in good condition and he worked really hard. We had the game last week to give him some minutes and he was really good, so it was time to unleash him.

"I think you can see what he brings to the team with Reo back in we’ve pretty much got a full bill of health. We’re in good shape going into the run-in, but for us, it’s just about focusing on performance and maintaining that level."

When asked if Hatate could be the 'difference maker' in the title run-in this season, Kennedy said: "I think that’s always the case with your best players. He’s shown that, in terms of big games and big performances. He’s obviously not fully up to speed but I think we can see that he’s in pretty good condition, and it’s just the confidence he brings to the team as well.

"He plays with that composure. Even on a difficult pitch, you can see how he brings calmness to the game. He sees the passes which the front players thrive on and he gives us a slightly different dynamic. It’s important to have him back. It’s just about getting him through the week now, getting him that extra bit fitter going into next week.”

The player himself was delighted to be back in the groove as he told the club TV channel: "I am happy to be back. I wanted to help the team and I scored a goal against Livingston, so I am very happy as I had prepared well for this.

"My strong points are to create chances and make goals and assists. I want to focus on those aspects of my play."

The Celtic supporters hailed Hatate's brilliant return to the fold. It was Hatate's name they were screaming from the rooftops at the close of play on Easter Sunday in West Lothian. On this evidence, Hatate has cemented his place already in the starting lineup for Ibrox next weekend. Can Hatate be the 'difference maker'? With seven games to go in the title race Hatate could well turn out to be Celtic's 'Kingmaker' come the end of the Scottish Premiership season.

Celtic head to the home of their rivals for the third Glasgow derby of the season this weekend with the return of influential skipper Callum McGregor also imminent.

Celtic Way:

It looks like Rodgers is getting all set to line up his midfield ducks in a row - McGregor Hatate and O'Riley. At Ibrox of all places. A midfield trio of McGregor, Hatate and O'Riley is a game-changer for Rodgers and Celtic as they home in on a third successive league flag. You get the feeling that Rodgers and his Celtic players are men on a mission. It's enough to strike fear into any opponent let alone Rangers. Why? That particular triumvirate is the three best midfielders in the country.

Inspired by McGregor. influenced by Hatate, and Inspirited by O'Riley. The 'I's have it as Celtic head to Ibrox on Sunday.

If those three names appear on Celtic's starting team sheet and they just happen to be 'unleashed' against Rangers then to quote legendary former ITV commentator Brian Moore: "It's up for grabs now."