Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has backed Chelsea's claims on the Barclays Premier League title this season.
The 48-year-old will do his best to dent the Blues' start to the new season at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night, but is confident Carlo Ancelotti's men will run his former club Manchester United close this time around.
"If anybody finishes above Chelsea, in my opinion, they will win the league," he said. "That's what I strongly believe. They are the ones to beat, as normal, they are the big threat to the champions now."
He added: "Of course, we see Liverpool and we will see the emergence of Manchester City, probably, but in my opinion still when I look at them - and I have just watched the video for the third time - they have still got that air of a great team, and they are the ones to beat."
That video was of Chelsea's last-gasp 2-1 opening day win over Hull on Saturday, a game in which they were pushed all the way by Phil Brown's side.
Indeed, it took an injury-time strike from Didier Drogba to snatch all three points as the Tigers were denied tangible reward for a committed display.
However, Bruce insists that came as no surprise to anyone.
He said: "It took them until the last minute to beat Hull, but I have just seen the stats there - they had 26 attempts on goal.
"You know when you are playing Chelsea or you are playing Manchester United or the top teams, that they have got people who can hurt you and they go right to the wire.
"Chelsea always go to the wire - it's something they have maintained over the last few years that makes them a great team."
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