Reading manager Steve Coppell expects the Championship to be even more competitive this season as the fight for a place in the Premiership begins.
Coppell's Royals just missed out on the play-offs last season and he is aiming to go one better this time around.
"Our target is to improve on last season, so as a minimum we are looking at the top six," he told BBC Sport.
"But you've got a load of teams at the same sort of level striving to obtain the biggest prize in football."
With Southampton, Norwich and Crystal Palace relegated from the Premiership last season, Coppell is under no illusions as to the strength of the league.
"It's just a hard division to get out of," he added.
"The differences in expenditure on the teams are not as vast as it is in the Premiership so there's not much to choose between sides.
"Crystal Palace, Norwich and Southampton will be very forceful in the league this season, there's no doubt about that.
"Ipswich, Derby and Preston missed out in the play-offs last time and they will all be there or thereabouts again, too.
"I'd like to think we're in a pack of around four or five, maybe six, others who have real aspirations to improve."
The former Palace boss also predicts big things for the promoted sides Sheffield Wednesday, Hull and Luton joining the ranks.
"The teams who are coming up are all big clubs, just look at Wednesday," said Coppell.
"They will get 30,000 people at Hillsborough and if you are getting that sort of revenue on a weekly basis you're inevitably going to start acquiring better players.
"Hull similarly will have big crowds and the purchasing power of that revenue is immense."
Coppell has strengthened his squad over the summer, breaking the club's transfer record by paying £1m for Bristol City striker Leroy Lita.
And he believes gambling on lower league players is the best option financially for Championship clubs.
"Every signing is a gamble because even players who played at the top might not settle or reproduce their best form," he said.
"It's more or less a financial necessity to gamble on players from lower leagues because you're obviously not paying as much in wages.
"What you have to do is try to make the odds work in your favour."
Coppell has had success in the past with lower league buys - he took Ian Wright out of non-league football for Crystal Palace and signed Dave Kitson for Reading from Cambridge.
And the former Manchester United and England winger is hoping Lita can follow a simliar path.
"What we saw in Leroy Lita is pretty simple - someone who scored 29 goals for his team last season.
"Football is about results and we think he can produce them at this level. All we can do is provide the stage and hope he rises to the occasion.
"You can see Leroy enthralled at the prospect of trying to duplicate what Ian Wright did, coming from almost nowhere to score goals at different levels."