Eddie Howe's two-word description of Manchester City ahead of Newcastle United match
Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe believes his players are in for the ‘ultimate test’ when they host Manchester City on Sunday afternoon (4:30pm kick-off).
Newcastle have also made a solid start to the campaign with four points and two clean sheets from their opening two games – but that unbeaten and unbreached record is under serious threat this weekend.
Pep Guardiola’s side beat Newcastle 4-0 and 5-0 home and away in the league last season and Howe has lost all 12 of his managerial encounters with City – a Premier League record for most games without picking up a point against a single opponent.
But Howe is still hopeful heading into this weekend’s fixture as he said: “We’d love a very good performance. We’d love a result to match that performance.
"This is the ultimate test for me, these games against Manchester City, Liverpool – they’re the real barometer of our quality.
"We want to narrow that gap between us and the top teams in the division. Last year, the results were hard on us against Manchester City. I thought they were tighter than they looked on paper, and they don’t look good on paper.
"The games were difficult, both different, but the home game last year, there was bits of our performance that was very, very good. But you need a bit of luck, need to be clinical and in the two games, we probably weren’t.”
City have also been bolstered by the high profile addition of Erling Haaland in attack – one of several players Newcastle will have to keep an eye on this weekend.
“He’s obviously an outstanding talent, there’s no doubt about that,” Howe admitted. “You see some of the goals he has scored, he makes it look effortless.
"Physically, he’s very good as well so I think that will change Manchester City as a team because they had a team last year without really a recognised number nine, they didn’t really play with that player.
"But they became very difficult to play against because of it, they overloaded you in certain areas of the pitch. Now they have a focal point, a predator and someone who will score goals given half a chance.
"We have to be aware of that of course and keep the team quiet to stop the supply to him. That’s the task we have.”
Howe added: “I’d always say to [the players], judge yourself against the best and it’s a challenge to be attacked and relished rather than feared.
"Our defenders are in a good place at the moment, as a team we’ve defended well. There’s always room for improvement but this is the ultimate test and I think not just for the back four because we’ve got a team in front and we have to protect our defenders.
"But we also have to give Manchester City a threat the other way, a problem the other way. We can’t be too passive in what we deliver.
"It’s a good game at a really early stage of the season to see how far we’ve come as a team.”