Kenny Jackett believes the Christmas period will tell Pompey what they have to do to be contenders this season.
The Blues reach the half-way stage of the campaign after facing high-flying Shrewsbury, as they go to New Meadow in impressive form.
That will be the start of four games in 10 days across a busy festive fixture list, which will show Jackett’s side much about their ambitions this term.
Jackett feels the shape of the table will crystallise by the start of 2018.
He said: ‘Where are your aspirations? If you don’t aim to be successful then what’s the point of starting?
‘You have to look at the reality of it, though.
‘The budget of the club is a big thing, a big indicator, if not everything as Shrewsbury are proving at the moment. The rest of the division, though, is somewhere near to being in kilter.
‘We have done well to keep pace and be around those clubs – but you have to aspire to do that.
‘I’ve put the schedule out until January 1 for the Christmas period.
‘It’s an opportunity to get a high amount of points in a short amount of time.
‘It’s a great thing we can do, and from a selfish point of view, we can get as many people fit and available as possible so we have good choices going into those games.
‘After that, by the time the first week of January comes, you’re not quite into the run-in but it does seem like you can see what you need to do.’
Shrewsbury have surprised many sides by setting an early pace in League One, sitting in second spot ahead of Pompey’s visit.
Jackett feels they are the one anomaly, with the rest of those at the head of the pack as expected.
The Pompey boss sees Wigan and Blackburn as the most powerful of sides his team have faced.
Jackett said: ‘The sides behind us, Oxford and Rotherham, are both sides who beat us and looked better than we did on those particular days.
‘On the day, Wigan and Blackburn have been the two best sides we’ve played.
‘To be fair to Shrewsbury, though, they’ve split them at the moment. Scunthorpe and Bradford are solid and were solid last year, so it’s not necessarily a surprise to see they are where they are.
‘Many people thought Oxford at the start of the season.
‘They were well rated and have a good chance going into the second half of the season.
‘Scunthorpe were unlucky last year.
‘They just fell away a little at the end as Bolton came through.
‘They have been one of the most consistent sides over the past two seasons.
‘They are hard to break down and hard to beat.
‘The only one which isn’t quite there yet is MK Dons, who have a good record in this division.
‘All of the fancied teams are there.’