Chelsea captain John Terry has predicted that this season's Premier League title race will be a "fight to the death" as more teams than ever look capable of challenging for the trophy. Manchester United are aiming for a fourth consecutive crown, but their rivals are growing in numbers. Chelsea and Liverpool are expected to lead the challenge, but Arsenal, Manchester City, Everton, Aston Villa and Tottenham could also be in the hunt for the coveted top-four place which brings with it Champions League qualification.
John Terry, whose Chelsea side open the league's proceedings with a home test against Hull City tomorrow, said: "It will be close, as it has been for the past four or five years. We have been pushing them [United] closely and when we won it, they were pushing us, so it will be a fight to the death." Earlier, teammate Didier Drogba told French paper L'Equipe that he thought the traditional big four - United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal - could see their stranglehold broken.
He said: "The championship is more difficult each year and the one which is coming up will without doubt be the most difficult. Now there are more teams capable of fighting for the title. From this year, people are no longer talking about a big four, but a big five or big six." Despite losing Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, United are still favourites, but their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, acknowledged the task ahead, saying: "We know how difficult it is to win this league."
Liverpool, second last season, have not won the title since 1990. Their new full-back Glen Johnson said: "I won the league with Chelsea and it's a fantastic feeling, but to do it here would mean more because the club has been so long without it." Having sold two key players in Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure, Arsenal's standing in the top four could be at most risk. Of the contenders, ambitious Manchester City are the team most likely, due to their near £100million (Dh605m) spending spree. Adebayor is looking forward to trying to topple his former club. He said: "What I have done with Arsenal is already behind me. I'm now in a team who will fight them for the fourth place and to qualify for the Champions League."
Everton, fifth last time around, lead the best of the rest, along with a youthful Aston Villa side and underachieving Tottenham. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Read Adebayor's exclusive interview in our Premier League pull out, s7-10