Brown is suspended and will not do battle with Mendes on Saturday
Old Firm midfield stars Pedro Mendes and Scott Brown are playing down the bill of championship decider ahead of Saturday's Glasgow derby at Ibrox.
"There will still be three games to go, nine points to play for," said Mendes. "But it will be a big step, I have to admit that, towards the title."
Celtic's Brown, who misses the game through suspension, said: "If we go and beat Rangers, we'll be delighted.
"And, if not, we've got another three games to go."
Celtic hold a one-point lead as they chase a fourth consecutive championship, but they face Rangers without the influential Brown, who is this season's PFA Scotland Player of the Year.
"I'm gutted to be missing out on the Old Firm game," said the 23-year-old midfielder.
"I'll be going along, I'll be supporting the lads and I'll be in the changing-room before the game."
Afterwards, there will be three games to go, so it will be massive for both teams
Rangers midfielder Pedro Mendes
Brown insists Celtic can win at Ibrox without him after watching them shrug off his absence to win 3-1 away to Aberdeen on Saturday.
"I saw it on TV and the lads didn't really need me, to be fair!" joked Brown, who generally does not like watching his own team in action.
"They're scoring goals away from home and winning games, so that's the main thing."
Rangers playmaker Mendes, who was on the short-list of candidates beaten by Brown for the players' prize, feared he may also miss the vital encounter after suffering what appeared to be a bad injury in the Scottish Cup semi-final win over St Mirren just over a week ago.
However, the problem was not serious and the Portuguese midfielder completed a full 90 minutes against Hearts on Sunday.
Mendes admitted to being "very tired" after the 2-0 victory, having been unable to train for most of last week.
"I didn't train for most of the week, just having treatment and trying to recover the knee," he said.
"I'm pleased with how the game went. It was an important win and a massive three points for us."
Mendes thundered home what was voted goal of the season at the PFA Scotland awards ceremony in a 4-2 win at Celtic Park in August, while Rangers were beaten by Scott McDonald's goal at Ibrox in December.
The fierce rivals then ground out a tedious 0-0 in February but Celtic hold the head-to-head advantage this season thanks to victory in the Co-operative Insurance Cup final a month later.
"It's a massive game, massive," said Mendes, looking ahead to the weekend. "Afterwards, there will be three games to go, so it will be massive for both teams. We definitely want to win it and go top."
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