Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley says a top 10 Premier League finish would be a "massive achievement", regardless of expectations at the Stadium of Light.
The Wearsiders ended last season in the top half, but despite a summer of squad strengthening have started the season with one win in eight games.
"People have to be realistic, we're not going to finish in the Champions League," Bardsley told BBC Newcastle.
"Let's just finish in the top 10 again. That would be a massive achievement."
The pre-season overhaul of Steve Bruce's squad saw money spent on Ipswich Town teenager Connor Wickham, Birmingham City midfielder Craig Gardner, Chunnam Dragons forward Ji Dong Won and Manchester United defender John O'Shea, while Wes Brown, David Vaughan and Sebastian Larsson were added on free transfers.
In return, the Black Cats lost Jordan Henderson to Liverpool for £20m, while Asamoah Gyan was loaned to United Arab Emirates club Al-Ain for the remainder of the season.
Meanwhile Bardsley's dismissal at Chelsea ruled him out of four games, although that was offset by a brace of appearances for the Scotland national team.
In addition the former Manchester United full-back has remained a part of the first-team squad at Sunderland, warming up with the team before matches to keep up his fitness.
"It's off my own back. I just wanted to make sure I stayed fit and focused as possible, trying to be part of the team even though I can't play," Bardsley added.
"It was nice to go and actually get some work done before the lads go out to play, and hopefully that has stood me in good stead for when I come back.
"I enjoy it [with Scotland] I know a lot of the faces anyway because of the teams that I played for. Everyone's fantastic and it's nice to go there and get some game time.
"It's a great set-up and environment, and I'm grateful for the chance to play on the international stage."