Celtic: Aberdeen form driving us on - Mackay-Steven

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
Celtic are one point clear at the top of the Premiership with a game in hand over Aberdeen

Gary Mackay-Steven says Aberdeen's title challenge is driving Celtic on.

The defending champions are one point clear at the top of the Premiership, although they have one game in hand over Derek McInnes' side.

Mackay-Steven says that there are tense moments during the title race, but Celtic have experienced players to rely on when the pressure builds.

"We've got a squad full of winners, a lot of them have done it before," he said.

After consecutive Premiership draws against Hamilton and Dundee, Celtic got back to winning ways at the weekend with victory at Partick Thistle.

Mackay-Steven feels if his team can recreate the level of performance they delivered at Firhill in their remaining league fixtures, they will come out on top in their duel with Aberdeen for the title.

"We're in a title fight, no doubt. Aberdeen have shown over the course of the season how strong they are.

"They keep winning and that's great for us, it keeps us on our toes and we welcome the challenge. We'll need to be on our game if we want to stay on top, but that's what we're looking to do.

"There was a little bit of tension on Saturday after (Partick Thistle) scored (to make it 2-1), but overall we deserved our victory.

"We created a lot of chances, and maybe for the last few minutes it was a little bit tense, but they didn't create too many more opportunities. If we play like that, we'll win more games than we lose.

"Coming off the back of a few good performances, we'll be looking to keep it going (against Kilmarnock on Saturday)."

Derek McInnes
Derek McInnes' Aberdeen side have lost just one of their past 17 league matches

Mackay-Steven insists that the Celtic players do not pay attention to Aberdeen's results, focusing instead on their own performances.

The attacking midfielder has been a regular in the starting line-up in recent weeks, scoring and creating chances, and he says that provides confidence at a crucial point in the season.

"You really get into your stride when you get a sustained run in the team," he said.

"You get your match fitness up and start feeling good about yourself. I'm looking forward to the next games.

"We've got a big squad here and any chance you get you need to impress. Luckily I've done that lately. It's about feeling good about yourself and keeping it going.

Mackay-Steven added that no Celtic players are thinking the Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden next month, because there are too many important league games in the meantime.

He was also happy to see Ross County staff members celebrating the team's Scottish League Cup win on Sunday, since many of them were at the club when he was working his way through the youth ranks at Dingwall.

Mackay-Steven hopes more youngsters from the Highlands will make their way into the professional ranks now that Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle are firmly established as top-flight sides.

"I didn't actually see the game, but I saw the result and the celebrations," he said. "It was great for them, a small town in Dingwall, but they get behind the team and it's great for the Highlands as a whole.

"There are still a lot, Roy, Donnie, and it cut to them after the game. For them to win the cup was massive but they fully deserved it.

"It's great for the Highlands that Inverness and Ross County have established themselves in the league. Hopefully a lot more players from up there can show what they can do, and Ross County and Inverness will give them their chance."