Newcastle’s expected threat to the Premier League’s traditional top six has arrived ahead of schedule with the Mapgies well in the running for a place in next season’s Champions League.
A run of 13 points from a possible 15, including trips to Manchester United and Tottenham, has propelled Eddie Howe’s men ahead of United, Chelsea and Liverpool into fourth.
Newcastle’s recent run of form is not the only worry for the established powers.
Just one year into the club’s Saudi ownership and having spent over £220 million ($254 million) on new players, Newcastle have been transformed from battling relegation to competing for Europe.
With just five more Premier League games either side of the World Cup before the transfer window reopens, they will have another chance to strengthen thanks to the riches of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
“We are very respectful of the league, we are very respectful of other clubs and their quality, but we really do also believe in ourselves and we believe we can achieve special things with this group,” said Howe after his side’s 2-1 away win at Tottenham last weekend.
“It’s one game and we want it to be on a regular basis.”
Victory at home to Aston Villa on Saturday will lift Newcastle up to third and within four points of leaders Arsenal, albeit having played two games more.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp’s comments that the Tynesiders have “no ceiling” due to their state-backed wealth drew a rebuke from Howe that there is more than just money to Newcastle’s rise.
The former Bournemouth boss has turned around the careers of Joelinton and Miguel Almiron from seemingly expensive flops of the Mike Ashley era into stars of the season so far.
With Arsenal and Manchester City setting the pace at the top of the table, Newcastle muscling in on the Champions League places could leave three of Chelsea, Liverpool, United and Tottenham outside the top four come the end of the season.
Potter’s Brighton return
The pressure is therefore on Chelsea boss Graham Potter to restore the Blues to winning ways in the Premier League when he returns to Brighton on Saturday.
Potter is yet to lose in nine games since departing the south coast last month to replace Thomas Tuchel at Stamford Bridge.
But back-to-back draws against Brentford and Manchester United have seen Chelsea slip to fifth and exposed a familiar problem for his predecessor in the lack of a goalscorer up front.
Promising performances against Newcastle, Tottenham and Chelsea has sparked optimism around where Manchester Untied are headed under Erik ten Hag.
But the Dutchman also needs to turn those plaudits into points when West Ham visit Old Trafford with the Red Devils having won only two of their last five league games.
Marsch’s last stand?
Both Liverpool and Leeds are in desperate need of a win when they face off on Saturday.
A run of eight games without a win has plumeted Leeds into the relegation zone with Jesse Marsch now the favourite to be the next Premier League manager sacked.
“I’ve never lost this much in my career. I’m sick of it,” said the former Leipzig and Salzburg boss on Thursday.
“I’m not dumb, I understand exactly that if we don’t win games I put them (the board) in a very difficult situation to continue to support me.”
Liverpool appeared to be finding their rhythm after a slow start to the season before losing at bottom-of-the-table Nottingham Forest last weekend.
The Reds are already 12 points off the top of the table, but most of their troubles have been on the road as they remain unbeaten in front of a crowd at Anfield in the league since 2017.
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