FILIP Benkovic has revealed the Celtic players believe they are better than their Scottish rivals despite falling behind both Rangers and Kilmarnock in the Ladbrokes Premiership table.

And the Croatian centre half, who is on loan at Parkhead from Premier League club Leicester City, is hoping he can remain in Glasgow in the second half of the season to help them prove it.

Brendan Rodgers’s understrength side failed to reclaim top spot in the league table from Kilmarnock on Sunday when they were beaten 2-0 by Hibernian at Easter Road. Rangers later edged ahead of them both when they defeated Hamilton 1-0 at Ibrox.

However, Benkovic, who moved from Dinamo Zagreb in his native Croatia to Leicester in a £13 million transfer in the summer, welcomes the competition that Celtic, who have played a game less than Rangers and two games less than Kilmarnock, have in the top flight this season.

The 21-year-old, who has established himself as a first choice regular at the double treble winners since arriving in Scotland back in August, wants them to show that in the coming months and complete a third consecutive clean sweep of domestic trophies.

“It’s a challenge we welcome,” he said. “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.

“This (the treble treble) can be a really big achievement, but we have to look at it day by day. I’m really positive about it and I think we can do this. We must go game by game. We’ve done that until now and it’s going well.”

Leicester have an option to recall their player in January, but Claude Puel, their manager, has admitted he would like Benkovic to remain at Celtic.

“I really hope that I will stay here until the end of the season,” he said. “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.”

Benkovic saw how Virgil van Dijk, the Dutch centre half who signed for Liverpool from Southampton for a world-record £75 million fee back in January, improved during the time he spent at Celtic and believes he can benefit from remaining at Parkhead this season.

“He did it the right way in order to get to the highest level,” he said. “For me, he is probably the best defender in the world right now. I look at the highlights of his games and I learn all the time.

“As a player I also want to go this way. But it’s got to be step by step. If you want to become a top player, one of the best in the world, you must be humble and trust in yourself. I really trust in myself and I see that I have much progress to make on each part of my game. That’s for sure. I want to develop in a similar way – step by step.”