Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says Newcastle are one of six sides who pose a threat to his team’s bid for a third straight Premier League title.
City are well placed to become only the fifth English club – after Arsenal, Huddersfield, Liverpool and Manchester United – to achieve the feat.
Victory against Fulham this weekend would put City back to the top, ahead of Arsenal, at least for 24 hours. However, Guardiola said he is taking nothing for granted.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager says he can still see title challengers everywhere – including Liverpool, who are 13 points behind City, and Newcastle. Newcastle are fourth in the Premier League, little over a year since a Saudi Arabian-backed takeover.
Yet they have exceeded expectations under Eddie Howe and benefit from not being distracted by European competition.
“Newcastle have a good manager and top-class players,” said Guardiola. “I imagine they are going to stay there for a long time.
“They have physicality in the middle, box-to-box transitions and their intensity without the ball is impressive. “Also, they are not playing in Europe, which is a big advantage because when you arrive in the last months you have energy.”
Guardiola says Arsenal are the “first candidate” to win the title because the Gunners are top, then reeled off Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United, Newcastle and Liverpool as additional contenders.
Despite hammering them at Etihad Stadium last month, Guardiola feels Manchester United have ‘taken a step forward’, along with Tottenham, who City are yet to play. And the Blues boss is not ruling out Liverpool, even though Reds counterpart Jurgen Klopp already has.
“They have the same manager and squad who were able to win 18 matches in a row. Why are they not able to do it again?” said Guardiola.
“This is my feeling. Nobody knows what is going to happen after the World Cup, there’s the transfer window and players coming back.”
Guardiola’s difficult relationship with veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who he worked with at Barcelona, resurfaced again during the City manager’s news conference on Friday.
The Swede was one of the few high-profile players who failed to respond to the Catalan’s demanding coaching methods and Ibrahimovic has repeatedly said he felt Guardiola was unable to handle his personality.
It was an assertion Ibrahimovic repeated in an interview with French television station Canal+, when he said Erling Haaland’s problems will only come if Guardiola feels the Norwegian’s ego is getting bigger than his own.
When asked about Ibrahimovic’s latest comments, the City manager responded with trademark sarcasm.
“He is completely right,” he said. “In this club my ego is beyond anyone. I don’t like it when Erling scores three goals. I am so jealous.
“I said afterwards ‘don’t score any more goals’ because I just want the newspapers to talk about me. He knows me perfectly. My ego is whoosh…..”