Boss Oran Kearney believes Coleraine face a “massive battle” to finish in the top six this season.
Five points currently separates second and 10th in the Danske Bank Premiership table following an unpredictable start to the new campaign.
The Bannsiders sit seventh, not that Kearney is paying much attention to league standings at this early juncture.
The Showgrounds outfit have managed top six finishes in the past two years – a feat they are looking to repeat this term.
But with a number of teams already flexing their muscle this season, he is under no illusions how difficult a task that will be in the months ahead.
“You have the likes of Cliftonville, Crusaders, Linfield, Portadown and Glentoran who you would class as being the ‘top five’,” Kearney said.
“So that leaves one more spot for the other seven teams to fight for – and I am sure every single one of those seven will be targeting a decent run at it.
“We know how tough it is to finish in the top six, and the bar has been raised once again. So we know it is going to be a long, tough season.”
Kearney believes it is too early to be assessing the state of the table, admitting it will take time for the Premiership landscape to settle.
“I think a lot of teams deserve credit. They have tried to improve and the table shows it is very competitive,” he added.
“But we are only eight games into the new season, and everyone has been sizing up each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Come Christmas time we probably get a fairer reflection of the table and how each team might fair this season.”
Coleraine travel to Windsor Park on Saturday afternoon looking to secure only their third win of the season.
The Bannsiders have drawn four of their eight games to date, a result of some “patchy performances”, according to Kearney.
“We haven’t put together a 90-minute display yet. We have had spells in games when we have switched off, and we have been made to pay.
“Last week against Warrenpoint Town we didn’t start the second half and they scored two goals.
“We can’t afford a repeat of that against Linfield.”
Kearney expects a tough test at the international stadium against a Blues side who have emerged from an early-season malaise to sit fourth in the table.
“They have quality throughout their side and they can punish you,” Kearney added.
“It is always a tough place to go and they are in a rich vein of for. So we know it will be difficult.
“But we won’t go there with an inferiority complex. There is a belief in my squad and we are looking forward to the challenge.
“We have risen to the task before at Windsor Park.”