Harry Redknapp has outlined the fierce challenge facing Sunderland this season.
The Birmingham City boss believes as many as 16 Championship teams will fancy their chances of winning promotion to the Premier League as Sunderland prepare for their first season in the second tier for a decade.
Simon Grayson’s Sunderland squad is currently in Scotland ahead of tomorrow night’s friendly against Livingston as preparations continue ahead of the 46-game Championship campaign.
Redknapp believes the second tier is as competitive as ever, not that former Preston North End, Leeds United and Huddersfield Town boss Grayson needs warning of the challenge that lies ahead.
Redknapp said: "I see Villa are favourites for the league but this year every team thinks they should be in the Premier League, don’t they?
"Middlesbrough will spend big money and will be right up there, maybe Sunderland, Leeds will be strong, Fulham again, Derby and Wolves will have a go.
"Every team is going to fancy their chances. Although it would be nice for rivalry, it’s not just going to be about Villa and us.
"There are going to be about 15 or 16 teams all thinking they are going to be there. But I’m sure both clubs will be there or thereabouts.
"Villa spent about £80m last season and still finished halfway, so it shows how tough it is.
"There are lots of powerful teams and all the clubs seem to have big owners now. There are more and more foreign owners buying the clubs and spending."