BOSS Eddie Howe firmly believes the Premier League will be tougher than ever next season but insisted: “I back us to come back stronger.”

Cherries this morning learned their fixtures for the top flight ahead of the new campaign, with Sheffield United visiting Vitality Stadium in their curtain-raiser on August 10.

The Blades are the first of two opening fixtures for Howe’s men against promoted sides, with the Dorset club’s first away test coming at Championship play-off final winners Aston Villa a week later.

Defending champions Manchester City then head to Dorset, with a trip to Leicester City for Cherries rounding off the opening month of the campaign.

Asked whether he felt the top-flight would be stronger once again next season, Howe told the Daily Echo: “Without a doubt. I am under no illusions.

“When you look at the Premier League last season, without doubt in my mind it was one of the hardest seasons we have ever faced in the Premier League.

“The standard of the big teams went on again but so did the standard of the other teams.

“We need to make sure we keep the pace. In part, recruitment is going to be very important and, in part, keeping our best players is going to be very important – and, of course, the work we do on the training ground.

“There is a real mix of things we have to get right.

“There will be a lot of tweaking to what we do during the close season and pre-season will be important for us but I back us to come back stronger.”

Cherries finished 14th in the Premier League last season having totalled 45 points from 38 games – their second-best top-flight haul.

They had chalked up an impressive 20 points during the opening 10 games but an injury-hit second half to the campaign checked their progress.

Howe’s men produced a record goals scored tally during their fourth Premier League season but also conceded more than ever at England’s elite level.

And the Cherries boss said those statistics gave a strong indication of what his side needed to work on.

“Those two stats summed it up,” he said.

“I think we had been very good from an attacking sense, loose from a defensive sense and in some respects, it gave us a clear idea of what to focus on.

“Certainly, we know we can’t concede that number of goals again because, if we don’t attack as well for whatever reason, that could really hamper our ability to get the points we need. That includes everyone in the whole team, not just the defenders. I always think I have to be very clear in saying we defend as a team but we also attack as a team.”

Cherries round off their campaign on Merseyside with a trip to Everton on Sunday, May 17, 2020 (3pm).