On-loan Leicester City defender Filip Benkovic believes that they are still the best team in Scotland despite defeat to Hibernian at the weekend and sitting third in the Scottish Premiership.
An injury-hit Celtic currently sit third in the league behind Rangers and Kilmarnock after losing 2-0 to Hibernian at Easter Road on Sunday.
However, Benkovic welcomes the challenge and believes that it will only make Celtic a better side.
The 21-year-old said: “It’s a challenge we welcome. It’s very good for football and for this league. I want a league that’s competitive. This can only make us better. We believe that we are much better than the rest. But we must prove this on the field.”
The Croatian defender signed for Leicester City in a £13 million deal in the summer from Dinamo Zagreb but was farmed out on loan to the Scottish champions after a month at the English Premier League side.
He has now established himself as one of Celtic’s first choice defenders alongside Dedryck Boyata, who has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury.
Despite being on a season-long loan deal at Parkhead, Leicester has the option to recall the player in January, but manager Claude Puel has admitted that his preferred choice is to see Benkovic remain at Celtic to secure valuable experience and the defender wants to remain at the club himself.
He added: “I really hope that I will stay here until the end of the season. The other coach [Puel] has said the same thing. It’s not a decision for me, but he has said I can stay here and that’s good for me. I think staying here for a year will make me improve as a player.
“Coming from the Croatian league to the English Premier League is a very big difference. I was only there for one month, but I saw that it was a big step up. I think this step, coming to Scotland, can make me better.
“It’s a similar style of football. I really hope to keep going like this. The least I can do is give 110 per cent for the coach, the team and the fans.”
With one League Cup winner’s medal in his possession already, Benkovic is eyeing more silverware with the treble-treble in his sights before he returns south.