Newcastle United have proved what a difference a few days can make in football.
Heading into the start of the Premier League, not many pundits were predicting the Magpies to finish in the top four again like they did last season. Alan Shearer even said it would be a miracle.
However, the perception of Eddie Howe’s side has somewhat changed after Saturday. Newcastle are the team on everyone’s lips, battering Aston Villa in the opening game of the season.
The Magpies were rampant at St James’ Park, while the new signings dazzled on their debuts. Sandro Tonali was man of the match and scored the opener, while Harvey Barnes came off the bench to grab a goal and an assist.
Newcastle blew away a team who have been tipped to actually do better than them this season, with Howe’s side laying down an early marker.
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It was an incredible performance from Newcastle, and one that has led to Micah Richards tweaking his prediction about them this season.
Micah Richards now predicts Newcastle will be fourth
In the days heading into the new season, Richards provided his predictions for the 2023/24 Premier League campaign. He tipped Newcastle to finish in fifth, one place lower than they were last season.
However, the former Manchester City defender has now changed his mind.
Richards was on Sky Sports Premier League for the Super Sunday coverage, and was asked to give his opinion on Newcastle following the 5-1 win over Aston Villa the previous day.
“I think they will challenge for top four, I don’t think they will challenge for the title,” he said.
“I think they are one or two short of having a real chance even being able to think about that. I think they are just focused on what they need to do. Top four is realistic for them.
“They have brought in some great players though. Newcastle I think just top four.”
There will be no title charge at St James’ Park
It was an early statement of intent from Newcastle, who are currently top of the league. And while Toon fans jokingly sang about winning the title, there is no way that is the next step in the club’s evolution.
But consistency is what Howe is looking for, as he aims to replicate what the club achieved last season.
It is obviously going to be a very tough and different season, but Newcastle proved on Saturday that they really can be a special team once again. They brushed Aston Villa aside, despite them being flavour of the month and predicted to outshine the Magpies.
It was a scintillating performance from Newcastle, and one that has forced Richards to change his mind.