TERRY: ALREADY A MUST-WIN
John Terry believes that this season's race for the title could be the most competitive for many years.
The skipper was speaking at a central London hotel where the start of the 20th season of the Premier League this weekend was being marked.
Also sharing their views were Tottenham defender Michael Dawson, Patrick Vieira, now on the staff at Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion manager Roy Hodgson and Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.
'Every team out there has strengthened,' noted Terry.
'Man City have, Man United have brought some really good players, Liverpool seem to have strengthened a lot so we can see there isn't just the one or two sides [challenging] like there have been over the past few years. There are six or seven teams that could really push and have really got a chance of winning this great trophy.
'Man United have set the benchmark over the last 20 years,' he added.
'We pushed them right to the end last year and missed out when we went to Old Trafford and lost in the third to last game. We all see the quality they have got and the hunger they and their manager still have, and when I see that, it really drives me on.
'Seeing them lift the trophy last year still hurts today and I want to get my hands back on it and lift it.'
With that target in mind, Terry is encouraged by the early weeks under Andre Villas-Boas.
'He has been great since he's come in,' he said.
'We have had a great tour of Asia, we won all our games and when the manager first came in he stressed the importance of winning them.
'Last pre season we didn't win one game which of course is not the best of starts but he drummed that into us from day one. He has brought a lot of fresh ideas to training and the way he wants us to play, which will hopefully get us to lifting the trophy at the end of the season.
'A lot of the players knew him when he was here before working under Jose Mourinho, but he has gone away and done his own thing so we have to treat him with a lot of respect and as his own man.
'He has learnt from the very best and with the importance he is putting on training, day in, day out, he has brought an awful lot to us in a really short space of time.
'So we are ready for the season and ready for the Stoke game at the weekend.
'It is going to be a tough game. They made it difficult for us there last season, and they have a great support there with a great side and a great manager. It is a tough start but if we want to lift the trophy we have to go there and win.'
The event also saw the launch of a new scheme in which Premier League players are to fund £500,000 of football kit and equipment for young people.
The squads of all 20 Barclays Premier League clubs will provide U16 clubs, schools and youth organisations in England and Wales with free football kit and equipment. The Premier League Players' Kit Scheme will particularly benefit those who come from areas in most need of assistance. Each squad is to donate £25,000.
'All the captains and all the player reps got together when we came up with a scheme for the kids,' said Terry.
'Each player puts in an amount to give the kids at grassroots level the kit and the equipment for them to enjoy their football.
'We have all come from grassroots and the most important thing is the next generation. This is something we can really give back.'
The Premier League Players' Kit Scheme will provide successful groups with a free team strip. Applications will be welcome from any club, school or youth organisation.
Applications can be made to the Premier League Charitable Fund via www.premierleague.com and kits will be available to successful applicants who meet the criteria from October onwards.