LEIGH Griffiths has admitted being involved in the closest Scottish title race in years has brought the very best out in Celtic this season.

Griffiths and his team mates, who are bidding to land their eighth consecutive Ladbrokes Premiership crown, have found themselves behind Hearts, Rangers and Kilmarnock during the 2018/19 campaign.

But Brendan Rodgers’s side responded brilliantly to being deposed as top flight leaders to Steve Clarke’s team last week by romping to an emphatic 5-1 victory over the Rugby Park club at Parkhead on Saturday.

“We have always welcomed the chase regardless of who it is,” said the striker. “When Rangers went top with their win over Hearts they obviously deserved it. They went to Tynecastle, which is a difficult place to go, and won the game.

“We had our own job to focus on, a big cup final, and that is what we did (Celtic beat Aberdeen 1-0 in the Betfred Cup final at Hampden at the start of the month).

"We knew there was still a long way to go in the season to be No.1. Everybody will want to beat us to make sure they try and get it. It is up to us to go out and keep putting in performances to make sure we get the three points.

“But it is the most competitive league for a while. Going to places like Kilmarnock is no longer a formality. You aren’t just going to turn up and get three points. You need to try and earn them.

“They are the kind of games you need to go and win if you want to win league titles. If you don’t play well you still need to go and get something from the game.

“Listen, it doesn’t matter about any other teams playing well. It is all about us and what we do. The gaffer instilled that in us on the first day the first day that he came in – we want to be better in every single game.”

Griffiths has spent several spells out of the Celtic team injured this season and has only been on target six times in 22 appearances.

He is hoping that going away to Dubai with teh double treble winners during the winter break next month will help him to hit peak form in the second half of the season.

“It’s not a holiday, let me tell you,” he said. “We work very hard, although it’s nice to get a bit of sun on your back. We’re going there to put in the work that will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season.

“Touch wood, I’ll be fighting fit by the time we come back. We’ll have six days off after the game on December 29 and after that we’ll all be back at it again.”

Griffiths is hoping to do well enough for Celtic in the coming moths to win his place back in the Scotland set-up in time for the start of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign in March.

The man who became a hero to the Tartan Army with his double against England in a Russia 2018 qualifier at Hampden in June last year would like to add to his tally for the national team – he has netted four times in 22 international appearances to date - so he can get one over on his club captain Scott Brown.

“I need to get one more goal for Scotland because Broony keeps telling me he’s scored as many as I have,” he said. “I need to up the ante and get back into the squad.

“It’ll be tough because Belgium and Russia had great World Cups. We also have to respect the other countries but, if you can’t beat the teams from the lesser pots then you don’t deserve to be there anyway.”