Chelsea striker Didier Drogba reckons up to seven teams will battle it out for the Premier League title this season.
The Ivory Coast star believes the English top flight has never been so competitive, with Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa ready to provide a genuine challenge to the 'Big Four' of Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
"Since I arrived in England, I have never known an easy season," he told French daily newspaper L'Equipe. "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."
On cash-rich Manchester City, who have spent big especially on their forward line this summer, Drogba added: "They have the means.
"Even if I think they will need a bit more time before beating the teams in the 'Big Four', you must count on them this season, without forgetting Aston Villa and Tottenham.
"From this year, people are no longer talking about a 'Big Four' but a 'Big Five' or 'Big Six'!"
Drogba, who has just extended his contract with Chelsea until 2012, played a key part in Chelsea's victory over Manchester United in the Community Shield at the weekend. The Blues prevailed in a penalty shootout after the match finished 2-2 after 90 minutes.
But the striker still feels United, the reigning Premier League champions, are the ones to stop this season.
"They have won the title for the last three years and they deserve it," Drogba said. "But now that has to stop! And we are going to give our all to do that. They are clearly the team to beat.
"But we showed in the second half of the Community Shield that we are capable of it."
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