NIR BITTON insists the stinging criticism following the loss to Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side before the turn of the year sparked Celtic to respond in kind.

The champions are THIRTEEN points ahead at the Premiership pinnacle and, with only nine games to play, are only six wins from winning nine in a row.

Bitton, who played in the 2-2 draw against Livingston in West Lothian on Wednesday, reckons everyone outside of the club wanted Neil Lennon’s side to fail after they were beaten by the Govan outfit for the first time in the east end of Glasgow for nine years.

The loss left the Parkhead side two points ahead with Gerrard’s team who had a game to play against St Johnstone as they aimed to derail the green-and-white juggernaut.

Bitton, though, acknowledged the Celts would roar back because of the unbeatable winning mentality and the quality among the squad.

The versatile Israeli international reflected on the widening gap at the top and, speaking to the Evening Times, said: “It’s a good advantage for us, but we created it, we made it happen.

“I think after the Old Firm game everyone killed us. Everyone wanted us to fail.

“But it’s a winning mentality around the dressing room around, around the club, it is the belief.

“And we knew that if we’re going to do things right, we’re going to come back stronger.

“We don’t care about other teams we don’t care about what people outside the club are saying, we concentrate on ourselves. I think we know that if we do things right, it’s very difficult to play against us.

“It’s very difficult to match our play because we have good players all around the pitch, we have good players on the bench we can change the game for us.

“This is a special, special club to be at.”

Bitton added: “Everyone wants to stop us, everyone wants to beat us, to be the hero, and we need to need to accept it,

“We need to face it, we need to match it and we do it, we do it every week and just need to keep going.”

The next stage for the title kings is a home game against St Mirren tomorrow. The countdown to another Flag Day is on.

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