Sean Dyche feels that Middlesbrough and Burnley have shown strong jaws to shake off knock-out blows delivered last season.
The two sides go head to head at The Riverside Stadium tonight, with Boro sitting second and the Clarets lying fifth, just five points adrift.
And after suffering play-off final defeat and Premier League relegation respectively, last term, Dyche has been impressed with both sides’ response.
The Burnley boss said: “These are tough games. On paper, it’s fair to say that particularly away from home we’re in a little spell against teams who are going well, or in good home form.
“Middlesbrough, after being up the last season, are back up there again this season, so it’s another big challenge, but we’re happy to take that on.
"I think we’ve both recovered well in different ways to what happened last year. They (Boro) have kept the core of players together and added to it, whereas we lost a few and bought a few to add to ours.
“So we’ve both managed to re-balance and re-energise and make sure the players are in a good shape mentally and physically for the next challenge, which is a relentless one.”
Dyche added: “Aitor (Karanka) has been given a lot of backing financially to make sure he has his group as ready as possible and I think he’s done that very well. Now it’s about that final step.
“But, of course, it’s not just about them. Derby and Hull are chomping at the bit, as are we and those around us. Even the teams just below, like Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday and so many more are looking to compete.
“So it’s not just about Middlesbrough or Burnley, it’s about all the challenges that come towards you.”
The Clarets head to the North east looking to extend their recent run to just one defeat in 12 games, albeit without a win in five, which includes four draws.
Dyche mused: “It’s the usual perception. We’ve either not won in five or lost just one in 11.
“Performance-wise though, I’ve been pleased. We’ve had that one hiccup, which was not down to taking chances.
“I’d still like us to get a big decision and there was another (at QPR) on Saturday when Andre Gray had his shirt tugged.
“But I have been pleased with the players’ clarity to see beyond that and make sure the performances are still there.
“I think we have created enough chances to score more goals of late and just haven’t taken them.
“But the key is to keep creating them and the players have the freedom to get in there and the freedom to miss them.
“The key thing for me is to be consistent in getting in there because eventually, they will go in.”
Clarets Player HD has full 90-minute commentary from the Riverside tonight, form 7.30pm. CLICK HERE for more details.