The domestic championship in Côte d'Ivoire kicks off again on 17 February, with  ASEC Abidjan  red-hot favourites to retain their crown. The team from the capital will in fact be looking to write their names in the history books by winning a record eighth consecutive title.

That said, Frenchman Patrick Liewig's men may well have their work cut out this year, with many of their rivals meticulously following ASEC's successful formula. A decade of phenomenal achievements during which time the club's youth and coaching policies have borne fruit both at domestic and continental level has naturally inspired others to follow suit.

The Côte d'Ivoire championship was created shortly after the country became independent in 1960, and since then the 14-club league has gone on to become one of the strongest competitions in western Africa. ASEC Mimosas have won 22 titles in all, including seven in a row since the turn of the century, making them by far the most successful team in the league's history. And though stars such as Didier Ya Konan and Bakary Soro moved on in the off-season, the squad that won last year's title still looks to be the strongest on paper.

Sewe Sports goalkeeper Bernard Kouakou has joined the team in yellow and black, as has Laby Kassiaty, the former captain of bitter rivals Africa Sports. Thus ASEC are confident they can not only retain their league title, but also win a second  CAF Champions League trophy , the latter being the stated aim of club president Roger Ouegnin. 

Of course, the competition have not been standing still either, with a number of clubs determined to wrest the league trophy away from the capital.

Fab four lying in wait
Sewe Sports, based in the coastal town of San Pedro, have picked up five Liberian players, including three internationals, to bolster their ranks. Goalkeeper Melvin King, defender Robert Omega, midfielder Ambrose Wreh and strikers Jimmy Gerry and Christ Dukely will be counted on to help Sewe improve on last year's runners-up spot.

Eugene Diomande, the club's young and highly ambitious president, believes that Sewe will be "more competitive" this time around, due in no small part to their new forward line. "We want to be more consistent and cement our place in the Champions League," said Diomande.

Other title hopefuls include Denguele d'Odienne, who have centre-forwards Koffi Kouassi and last-year's league top-scorer Bamba Siaka in their ranks. They have already been knocked out of the CAF Confederation Cup, leaving them to focus all their energies on the league.

Issia Wazi are the current Côte d'Ivoire cup holders and will be looking to carry that success over into the league, while Africa Sports National, who are second only to the Mimosas in the number of league titles won, have taken on an Italian look in an attempt to win their first title since 1999.

Manager Francesco Moriero has added fellow Italians Salvatore Antonio, Mario Binotti and Cosino Comte to his coaching staff, as well as former Ivorian international Francois Monguehi Guehi. "I came to Africa to win," proclaimed Moriero. "We're going to give it our all in every single match, and we want this title."

He may be single-minded, but Moriero is not the only one with this objective. ASEC certainly will not have it all their own way this season, and it looks like fans right across the country are in for a feast of football.