Kilmarnock are not top of the Scottish Premiership “by accident”, says Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.
Steve Clarke’s men are a point ahead of Rangers and Celtic at the summit, albeit having played more games than both, and have amassed more points than any other top-flight team in 2018.
Rodgers’ side have two matches in hand on the league leaders and host the Rugby Park club on Saturday.
“They deserve all the credit they get,” Rodgers said.
“The biggest credit you can give them is that it’s not by accident, it’s been a real consistent run in the last year or so.
“Steve has done a brilliant job in terms of how he organises the way they want to play and consistently they’ve got very, very good results.”
Kilmarnock have not conceded in their last four matches and beat Celtic 2-1 when Rodgers took his team to Rugby Park in September.
In fact, the Scottish champions have not beaten the Ayrshire club in their four meetings since Clarke took charge in October last year.
And Rodgers believes Leicester City’s remarkable Premier League title of 2016 will inspire Kilmarnock to mount a lasting challenge.
“They will feel like, why not? I think what Leicester have done to probably every team that you would say are a big club, that made the impossible possible,” the Celtic manager said.
“It’s still very early – we’ve only played 14 games. Get to 10 games to go and see where we are but what they’ve shown is that the level of consistency. I’m sure they will be up there for the rest of the season.
“They set up in a way that makes it very, very difficult and you have to be really patient. They pack up really tight and they’ve got some good players on the counter-attack so we have to be at our very best.”