Fulham boss Roy Hodgson believes that the gap between the 'big four' and the remainder of the Premier League is narrower this term than in previous seasons.
The Cottagers take on Liverpool this weekend, having fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at big-spending Manchester City last time out.
Hodgson said:"degree of difficulty in beating the so-called lesser teams is getting higher.
"Sunderland, for example, are a tougher nut to crack this year than in previous years and maybe Tottenham away was an easier fixture for Liverpool a few years ago.
"I know we can't say the league is an even one where the last team is every bit as good as the first, but the standard at the bottom is getting higher and that's making it more difficult for the boys at the top.
"That makes it more exciting. I still think the ones we regard as the top clubs will stay that way because they have the 60-70,000 capacity stadiums and the expensive transfers.
"But maybe – just maybe – they are going to have to drop a few more points along the way."