Marc Marquez thinks there is a strong chance that the resurgent Valentino Rossi can end his MotoGP winning streak at Mugello this weekend.
Marquez is undefeated so far in the 2014 season, but suspects Rossi will be hard to beat on home ground in this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.
Rossi won the Mugello race every year from 2002-08, and has begun this season with three podiums from five races.
Responding to 35-year-old Rossi joking that he wished he had been up against Marquez "when I was 22", the Spaniard said: "OK, in these five races I've had the top level but at Mugello Valentino will be 22 years old again.
"Valentino will be so strong there because it's his home circuit. He will be so hard to beat and he will push a lot."
Rossi admitted that the desire to beat Marquez would be even higher in Italy, and he is optimistic about his Yamaha's pace there after Jorge Lorenzo's wins at Mugello over the last three seasons.
"It's 25 points for the victory like the other races but it's a question of honour at Mugello," said Rossi.
"It's a special weekend, one of my favourites. I'm looking forward to it because Jorge won with the Yamaha at Mugello for the last three years and he always did fantastic races.
"That means the M1 is competitive there. I know it will be very, very, very hard with the Hondas and especially Marc, but we have to try.
"It's also good motivation because his level is so high and if you want to try to beat him, you have to give more than 100 per cent."
MARQUEZ WANTS MORE COMPETITION
Marquez reckons Mugello and the following Barcelona track are among his weakest on the calendar, but said the prospect of his rivals being closer actually pleased him after too many dominant wins.
"Last year at those circuits I struggled quite a lot, so it will be a nice weekend because I think everything will be closer," said Marquez.
"We will try to do our best and try to fight for the victory but if it's not possible, we must just manage our advantage.
"We will not win every race. Sometimes we need to just finish on the podium.
"We're in a very good moment now but we cannot forget that we're in the best championship with the best riders. OK, it looks easy from the outside, but inside the garage we know how hard it is."