One journalist at the Aviva Premiership Launch suggested that Sale Sharks will 'have one of their characteristic fallow years this season' but director of rugby Steve Diamond believes his strongest ever squad can not only prevent this but kick on from last season.
With a squad bolstered by the experience of new signings Chris Cusiter, Nathan Hines and Luke McClean, alongside fly-half Danny Cipriani who is in his third season at the club, Sale look well-placed to build on last year's achievement.
And Diamond admits he will have to manage the blend of youthful exuberance and wily operators in his side if they are to exceed themselves with a top-four finish.
"We've finished sixth twice in the last three years and we're probably nowhere near the spending money of ten of the other clubs," he said.
"Pushing for a top-four place is going to be difficult but we've got an ambitious team with a good set of young lads coming through, so who knows where we'll go.
"We lost James Gaskell and replaced him with Nathan Hines. We lost Rob Miller and brought in Luke McLean, who's a top international. So in most cases we feel we've replaced them with better players.
"[Mark] Cueto, Hines, Sam Tuitupou, Eifion Lewis-Roberts, they're all like a tube of toothpaste: you squeeze it when you need it and you don't keep the lid off all the time."
And Diamond has called on the club's fanbase to play a major role in shaping Sale Sharks' future, as a new era dawns at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Last season's Friday night slots have been replaced with regular Saturday home games and the boss is hoping to reel in thousands of new supporters.
"If we get 5,000-6,000 we're going to struggle but if we can get 7,000-8,000, on the back of a competitive team, with our good community work in the region, then the money will come," he said.
"We've been a bit hamstrung on Friday nights, with commuter traffic. Getting to and from the ground has been disastrous on some occasions, so we've moved the fixtures to Saturday.
"We've got that loyal band of about 4,000 people and if we can get to 8,000 on a regular basis the business breaks even, makes money and that will be drilled back into the team."
Sale Sharks have won five out of the last six Aviva Premiership games against Bath and have a proud record on the opening day fixtures when they play at home. The last home defeat on the opening day of the season was against Saracens in 1997. Bath did win on their last visit to the AJ Bell Stadium (27-20) in the LV Cup last November. Match referee on Saturday is JP Doyle who will be officiating in his 81st Premiership game.
Sale Sharks is one of the leading professional rugby union clubs in Europe. The club has won the Premiership title and twice lifted the European Challenge Cup. We are now expanding our commercial team as part of strategy to dramatically increase revenues in a year when the Rugby World Cup is held in England.