Jamie Carragher reckons Newcastle United are not yet ready to challenge for the title but are already scaring the establishment with their top-four push.
The Magpies enjoyed a superb run of form prior to the World Cup break. Five consecutive wins saw them sit third and they then tagged another victory onto their tally with a 3-0 success over Leicester City. Having won just once from their first seven outings, the Tynesiders have now amassed 33 points from nine victories and six draws.
Indeed, a 2-1 loss at Liverpool on August 31 remains their only league defeat of the campaign.
Eddie Howe has been roundly praised for the job he has done. Having staved off the threat of relegation last term, he guided the north-east outfit to mid-table security.
But attention has now turned to the other end of the table and the possibility of a title challenge.
Newcastle are just two points behind second-placed Manchester City and seven adrift of table-topping Arsenal.
Those clubs do have a game in hand on Howe’s side. But the former Bournemouth chief said that ‘anything is possible’ for his team after their Boxing Day success over the Foxes.
Carragher does not feel they will lift the Premier League trophy next May. But the Sky Sports pundit is convinced that Howe already has a side capable of upsetting the Premier League status quo.
“He is so far ahead of schedule that members of the traditional ‘big six’ are worried,” he told The Telegraph.
“At the start of each season, two clubs out of Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal know they will miss out on the Champions League.
“Because of Newcastle, that will soon turn to three of them having to adjust to the Europa League.”
Carragher expects Newcastle Champions League return
Newcastle now have the funds to compete with most clubs in the Premier League.
They have already signed some quality players, with the likes of Alexander Isak, Sven Botman, Matt Targett and Nick Pope arriving in the summer.
And there is every chance of further additions to the squad being recruited next month.
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said he felt Newcastle are already contenders for the title.
Carragher has tempered expectations and believes those in black and white need to stay grounded. However, qualification for the Champions League is not being ruled out.
“Talk of Newcastle winning the league this year is premature,” he added. “They are not ready for that yet.
“But impressive victories such as that against Leicester City on Boxing Day show they have the momentum to challenge for the top four.”
Silverware the next step in Newcastle progress
Newcastle are now in a position they could have only dreamt about prior to the Saudi-backed takeover.
Whatever happens this season, pride has been restored and the Toon Army have plenty to sing about.
They would love to see a trophy in the cabinet after such a long time without any success. And Carragher feels that winning a cup competition could be the next piece of the puzzle.
“Champions League qualification this season would be amazing, but I suspect Howe would be equally delighted if Newcastle win the Carabao Cup,” he continued. “It would certainly stir the emotions of the supporters.
“Newcastle have been in the Champions League before under Sir Kenny Dalglish and Sir Bobby Robson. Those days will return under the current owners.”
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