DEFENDER Alan Dunne believes Millwall's hopes of challenging for a play-off spot will hinge on a strong start to the new season.
The visit of Blackpool to The Den on Saturday signals the start of the new Championship campaign and Dunne believes the Lions will have to come flying out of the traps against the Tangerines.
Ian Holloway's side return to SE16 after the summer break for a repeat of last year's final-day fixture, which ended in a 2-2 draw.
Dunne told NewsAtDen: "It will be a totally different game to the one at the end of last season.
"By that stage we were safe and they were guaranteed a spot in the play-offs, but now every team has a clean slate.
"They'll be disappointed that they didn't go up so we could be catching them at a good time but we know it's going to be a tough game.
"Holloway is a great manager and Blackpool are a great club; they pass the ball well and we will have to be at our best."
Dunne, 29, says it is imperative Millwall start the new season as they finished the last one – as the form side in the division.
Kenny Jackett's side ended the 2011-12 campaign seven games unbeaten and the right-back is hopeful of extending that run.
"We have to get off to a good start this year," he added. "That is vital. Last year's start wasn't great but our finish was excellent.
"You can't get off to a bad start in this league and expect to be challenging for the top six. We know it's going to be tough; we're a small club in a big league but we've had a good pre-season.
"We can match any team for spirit and passion and we've got a manager who wants to succeed. We've had plenty of time to get fit and strong so we're ready and looking forward to it."
Dunne has seen his fair share of teammates come and go during his 11 years as professional and so he is well-qualified to assess summer arrivals Scott Malone, Chris Taylor and Karleigh Osborne.
"They've fitted in really well and they're all good lads," he said.
"Malone is something a bit different because he's tall for a left-back and can get up and down the pitch. He's strong and enthusiastic.
"Taylor and Osborne have got something to prove in this league because they haven't played in the Championship before. They want to show everyone they're good enough.
"It's a strong squad. We've got two players for every position so there's competition for places and maybe a few more others will come in. I still think we need to add in a couple of areas. It's a hungry squad."