Celtic winger James Forrest has backed Hearts and Hibs to sustain a genuine interest in the Premiership title race.
The league campaign resumes on Saturday following the international break, with Neil Lennon’s men pitching up at Parkhead. The encounter will see third in the table entertaining second and Forrest believes the fact that Brendan Rodgers’ title-winners find themselves behind Edinburgh pair in leaders Hearts and Hibs is proof of the greater challenge they face this season in the quest to claim an eighth straight title for the club.
“They deserve to be first and second in the league, they have started brilliantly, but we have these league games coming up and that will give us the chance to try and close the gap,” said Forrest, with Celtic meeting Hearts in their Murrayfield Betfred Cup semi-final and in the league in Glasgow’s east end in the coming weeks. “We have played a lot better ourselves in recent weeks and we just need to push on and come alive in these big games.
“I think even last season, in Hibs’ first campaign back up, they did really well. Every time we played them last season we were involved in some tough games. They have lost a few players but they have signed a few more and I expect them to be right up there.
“I think 100 per cent [there will be more of a challenge from rivals this season]. You can see that with the league table and the starts that a lot of teams have made. It is more competitive and it is going to be difficult and we know that it is going to be a tough season. We are aware of that but we have the ability in our changing room, the boys are working hard and I think things are starting to come together now.
“We are the champions and that makes it harder. Any team that plays us, home or away, they are going to make it difficult. Every team wants to beat us and that never changes but we have the right character in the changing room to deal with that.”