When a Saudi Arabian consortium completed the takeover of Newcastle United last year, many considered the club a new member of an exclusive group. The top six had just increased to top seven with a new member joining the ranks. But any idea of the Magpies challenging for the title immediately was farfetched.
They looked nothing like title challengers yet. Going by how others before them did it, it was always going to take a few years before they were ready. But with only one loss since the beginning of the season (a late penalty against Liverpool at Anfield), they are causing many to have a rethink about their chances.
Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez believes all the teams in top six places on the league table at the moment, and Liverpool are title challengers. The City forward tips Jurgen Klopp’s team to bounce back in the second half of the season and still challenge for the title, alongside the likes of Newcastle United and Chelsea.
Pep Guardiola has his own picks of title challengers for Manchester City. His list comprises table-toppers Arsenal, resurgent Manchester United and Newcastle.
Tottenham cannot be left out of the conversation given the antecedents of their head coach Antonio Conte. The Italian followed up his serial title wins at Juventus by also leading Chelsea to a Premier League title triumph in 2017.
But Guardiola singled out Newcastle United for praise after the team dismantled Aston Villa 4-0 over the weekend. Eddie Howe is leading a new team buoyed by the injection of cash from new owners who took over the club at the end of 2021.
Having also strengthened in the summer they now have a solid team capable of achieving bigger things. The Magpies are currently in the top four and looking determined to climb higher.
Hence, Guardiola believes they are title challengers. The Catalan boss spoke highly of the team after City struggled to secure a hard-fought 1-0 win against Leicester on Saturday.
“Phewww, they are a contender, a contender to be there,” Guardiola said about Newcastle. “The manager is Eddie Howe and you know how good he is. With the new players that come… and the way they play, brave.
“There will be a lot of teams fighting for the Champions League, fighting for the title. Look now, Newcastle is another part of this, is already there. I saw them last weekend against Tottenham.”
The City manager believes Newcastle have a unique advantage that is not shared by the other title contenders. They are concentrating fully on the league with no distractions of European football.
They don’t have to travel around Europe for games, giving them more rest time. Well rested, they come into league matches in top physical condition which is a huge advantage to have.
“I see the physicality we faced, we played them [Newcastle United] in the third game of the season. Imagine this team Newcastle with one game a week, with no European competition?”