Rangers defender Borna Barisic has branded John Kennedy's claims that Celtic are still the best team in Scotland as a "joke".
The Celtic caretaker boss has drawn scorn from the blue half of Glasgow ahead of tomorrow's Scottish Cup clash by insisting the Hoops remain top dogs.
But now Barisic and boss Steven Gerrard have bitten back, with the Croatia international even dubbing Kennedy's words disrespectful to the newly-crowned Ibrox champions, who remain unbeaten on league duty with four games remaining.
"I didn't hear the comments but I read the interview beforehand and I think that is the biggest joke I've heard this year," said Barisic.
"They haven't won against us in three games and we are 20 points in front of them, so it is disrespectful a little bit to us.
"You always need to be realistic in life. If someone is better and if someone is 20 points in front of you, you just don't talk like that. It is disrespectful for all the things we've done this season.
"It is not only from him (Kennedy), I know a lot of people are talking about Celtic's situation with Covid and all of these things. It's like we've lost five games or we are just five points in front of them.
"We are 20 points clear in front of them, we haven't lost a game this year. It is disrespectful to talk about anyone and changes."
Gerrard has also stoked the fires ahead of tomorrow's last-16 showdown at Ibrox.
He said: "I don't really focus on anyone outside Rangers in terms of their opinions. I just focus on what's happening inside here.
"On May 15 we'll lift our 55th title as a club and I'll be one of the proudest men on the planet.
"Where that sits right now, we're 20 points clear with four games to play with the chance to go unbeaten. So I don't need to listen to anyone outside Rangers to get a view on that. I know the reality and the truth.
"It's a date we're very much looking forward to as a club. Anyone's views from the outside on that are not really important."
Gers have won three out of the last four derby clashes but were not at their best as they pinched victory back in January thanks to a Callum McGregor own goal or in the 1-1 Parkhead draw last month.
However, Gerrard is refusing to worry about those displays as he eyes up a potential league and cup double.
"We are really proud of our season so far. A couple of defeats in late forties, nearly knocking on 50 games, I think it is a phenomenal record and a real level of consistency," he said.
"What has gone before in previous derbies or what has gone before this season will have no bearing on what is going to happen in the next 90 minutes, or possibly longer."
Meanwhile, Ryan Jack has seen his Euro 2020 dreams shattered after being told he will not play again for Rangers or Scotland this season.
The Ibrox midfielder has struggled with a persistent calf issue for the past two seasons and has not played since trudging off against Dundee United back in February.
Now the 29-year-old has been told by a top London specialist he requires an operation to finally solve the problem and he will go under the knife next week - meaning he will play no part for Steve Clarke's squad this summer.
Gerrard said: "The bad news is he's ruled out for the rest of the season. He's also ruled out of the Euros this summer.
"But the good news is that we've found a solution and got to the bottom of the problem."