James Forrest expects Celtic to handle the pressure of chasing their rivals

Celtic winger James Forrest admits they will need to show their character after falling off top spot in the Ladbrokes Premiership.

The champions looked like they might stay at the summit for an extended period after knocking Kilmarnock off their perch earlier this month with a 5-1 triumph at Parkhead.

Hearts, for most of the early months, and Rangers, briefly, had previously been top.

But Celtic now find themselves in third place behind leaders Rangers and Kilmarnock ahead of Wednesday’s visit of Motherwell after losing to Hibernian on Sunday.

Celtic have at least one game in hand over the teams above them and will only be halfway through their league campaign by the time they visit Ibrox on December 29.

But they are facing improved challenges from several teams. At the halfway stage last year Celtic were five points clear of Aberdeen and nine ahead of Rangers.

However, Forrest is sure they can rise to the challenge of chasing rather than leading.

“We have done it before,” he said. “It shows a different mentality – when you are top of the league, that you can stay there, and if you go a few points behind, you can get back.

“We have shown a lot of character before and we are definitely going to need to show that again.

“First and foremost we focus on ourselves. We go into every game being confident about ourselves. We know the ability we have got in our squad and we need to make sure we keep showing that and obviously show that more in the games to come.”

When asked if it stung to lose the lead and whether they were determined to reclaim it before the winter break, Forrest said: “It’s more just to take it game by game.

“We have four games before the winter break and every game is going to be difficult. We need to start with Wednesday and get three points and keep looking forward from there.”

Celtic’s 2-0 defeat on Sunday means only eight points separate the top eight teams in the league and Forrest admits things have moved on in the Premiership since their unbeaten league season under Brendan Rodgers.

“Even last year compared to the manager’s first year, the league improved,” the Scotland international said.

“You can obviously see with the league table, it’s improved again. Everyone is strengthening their squad and making it hard.

“We are going to really need to be at our best in the next few games to try and get to the top of the table.

“There’s a few teams that have done really well and they deserve to be up there with the results they have been getting. The last couple of months we have put in good performances and got a lot of good results.

“Sunday was our first defeat for a wee while and we just need to get back to winning ways on Wednesday and push on for the next few games.

“It’s not nice losing, and the way we conceded the goals on Sunday, it’s good that we have a game coming so quickly that we can get back to winning ways.”

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