‘Best team’ - Pep Guardiola makes big Newcastle United claim ahead of Man City clash

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Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola spoke highly of Newcastle United ahead this weekend’s meeting between the two clubs.

Pep Guardiola has once again heaped praise on Newcastle United ahead of their visit to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 12:30pm). The two sides meet for the second and final time this campaign after playing out a six-goal thriller at St James’ Park in August.

Ilkay Gundogan opened the scoring for City but the Magpies raced into a 3-1 lead after goals from Miguel Almiron, Callum Wilson and Kieran Trippier. The reigning Premier League champions, however, responded through Erling Haaland and Bernardo Silva.

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And Guardiola is braced for another difficult encounter against Howe’s men, whom he described as the best team in the division for transitions and set pieces.

“Incredible what happened last season, and this season they are taking a step forward,” said the Spaniard. “What I have seen lately, what they have done all season, it is one of the toughest (opponents) we have. The threats, transitions, set pieces; they’re the best team in the Premier League.”

City are looking to close the gap to two points on league leaders Arsenal. Newcastle, meanwhile, are eyeing a response following Sunday’s Carabao Cup final defeat to Manchester United.

Earlier in the season, Guardiola had tipped the Magpies as title contenders but that prediction has since fallen flat in recent months.

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Although Howe’s side have lost just twice this campaign, they’ve won just one of their last seven games - causing them to fall out of the Champions League places and into fifth.

Speaking in November, Guardiola said: “They have incredible physicality to the way they play and they are playing one game a week, they are not playing in Europe and when this happens that’s a big advantage when you arrive in the last months with energy. They have incredible energy and imagine how they are after one week.

“They have a good manager, top class players, they have experienced ones, physicality in the middle, box to box transitions, the way they make the intensity without the ball is so impressive, the press high and they go with real rhythm and I imagine they are going to stay there for a long time.”

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