Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says Newcastle are one of six teams that pose a threat to his side’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 on top, ahead of Arsenal, for at least 24 hours.
However, Guardiola said he is not taking anything for granted.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager says he can still see title contenders everywhere – including Liverpool, who are 13 points behind City, and Newcastle.
Newcastle are fourth in the Premier League just over a year on from the Saudi-backed takeover.
However, 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,” Guardiola said. “I imagine they will be 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 don’t play in Europe, which is a big plus because when you get to the last few months you have energy.”
Guardiola says Arsenal are the “frontrunners” to win the title because the Gunners are top, and have since been ruled out by Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United, Newcastle and Liverpool as further contenders.
Despite beating them at the Etihad Stadium last month, Guardiola feels Manchester United have “taken a step forward”, along with Tottenham, who City have yet to play.
And the Blues boss is not ruling out Liverpool, even though his Reds counterpart Jurgen Klopp has already done so.
“They have the same manager and the same team that they were able to win 18 games in a row. Why can’t they do it again?” Guardiola said.
“That’s my feeling. Nobody knows what will happen after the World Cup, it’s the transfer window and players are coming back.”
Pep’s sarcastic response to the Zlatan jibe
Guardiola’s strained relationship with veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who he worked with at Barcelona, resurfaced during the City manager’s press conference on Friday.
The Swede was one of a handful of high-profile players who failed to live up to the Catalan’s demanding coaching methods and Ibrahimovic has repeatedly stated that he felt Guardiola could not manage his personality.
It was a claim Ibrahimovic repeated in an interview with French broadcaster 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 sarcasm.
“He’s absolutely right,” he said. “At this club my ego exceeds everyone’s. 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 papers to talk about me. He knows me perfectly. My ego is the bane…”