Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher feels the Premier League title race will be a titanic tussle, with competition greater than ever.
The top flight has thrown up twists and turns on a weekly basis this season, with there no longer a guaranteed win available for the big boys.
Last weekend saw United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa all drop points, allowing the likes of Bolton, Sunderland and Stoke to cement top-half standings.
Scotland international Fletcher, who has lifted the crown on three previous occasions, expects the flurry of unexpected results to continue, with the gap between contenders and the chasing pack having closed considerably over the last couple of years.
"The Premier League is tough," he said.
"We experienced it last year. The standard has risen because the other teams are getting better.
"The battle for the top four used to be a given. Now there are a lot more teams involved.
"In general, because the league is getting harder, there will be a lot more points dropped than there have been in previous seasons.
"I think we are all expecting that."
United remain the only unbeaten side in the Premier League this season, but have already been held on seven occasions and sit three points adrift of leaders Chelsea.
They have, however, displayed their famed never-say-die attitude on more than one occasion to dig themselves out of a hole and Fletcher hopes they can start turning hard work into wins.
"There is still a long way to go," he observed.
"We are not through Christmas yet, which is always a busy period for us.
"But we don't want to give Chelsea too much of a lead because it would start to become difficult to claw back.
"Now it is important we put a run of winning games together."