PEP GUARDIOLA expects Newcastle United to be challenging his Manchester City side for the Premier League title in the next few years – and claims the current Magpies team are the most-improved in the top-flight.

The Magpies’ wait for a first Premier League win at the Etihad Stadium goes on after they were beaten 2-0 at the weekend, but whereas they were thrashed in both of their matches against Manchester City last season, this term’s games have been much closer-fought affairs.

Guardiola has been impressed with the speed of Newcastle’s improvement since their new Saudi Arabia-backed ownership group took charge just over a year ago, and expects further rapid progress in the next couple of years.

It took Manchester City almost three years to win their first trophy after they were taken over by their current Abu Dhabi-based owners in 2008, and Guardiola is confident Newcastle will also be celebrating some silverware before too long.

“I don’t know when Newcastle will be challenging for the Premier League title, but it will be in a really short time,” said the Manchester City boss, whose side remain five points behind Arsenal in the race for this season’s league crown. “The owners did not take over too long ago, and they are nearly there.

“They are starting to rise and increase. Of course, they will be a contender. It’s quite similar to Manchester City when our Abu Dhabi owners took over the club to win the Premier League. Newcastle will be there.”


City triumphed on Saturday thanks to goals from Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva, but with Newcastle spurning three good first-half chances, Guardiola admitted his side had to work hard for their success, something he always expected given the quality of the opposition.

“It’s Newcastle – they are an exceptional team,” he said. “Look at their set-pieces with Kieran Trippier – every corner, free-kick, you have to look to the sky.

“They have a threat in the transitions – (Anthony) Gordon, (Allan) Saint-Maximin, (Callum) Wilson keeping the ball. Then after that they have (Alexander) Isak, Bruno Guimaraes, who is a top-class midfielder, and (Sean) Longstaff and Joelinton with their physicality.

“(Fabian) Schar was not there today, but what a central defender he is, and then (Nick) Pope is an international goalkeeper for England. They played in the final of the Carabao Cup one week, and all season they have been in the top four or five, so what do you expect from a game against them? It is normal (to have a tight match).”