Eddie Howe welcomed praise from Pep Guardiola but called on Newcastle United to prove they are Premier League “contenders” ahead of a trip to Southampton.

Guardiola last week listed Newcastle among the teams who are a threat to champions Manchester City.

Newcastle drew 3-3 with City earlier this season and are only two places behind Guardiola’s side in fourth, five points off the second-placed title favorites.

The former Barcelona coach’s thoughts were relayed to Howe before Sunday’s game at Southampton, but he pointed out the warm words would count for little if Newcastle did not continue to perform on the pitch.

“I’d much rather people said nice things about us than not, but I’m not in control of that and it doesn’t really change anything,” Howe said.

“It’s nice to hear people’s opinions of us if they’re positive, and if they’re not, that’s up to them.

“It doesn’t change anything about what we’re doing; only we can prove whether we’re contenders or not. We have to do that on a weekly basis.”

Opposite number Ralph Hasenhuttl already feels Newcastle have outgrown Saints, who cannot compete with the Magpies’ financial power, their coach says.

“They want to become a top-six club,” Hasenhuttl said. “They are in a good way to do this, because they’re a strong side.

“I look at our chances and our level. It’s not the club we want to compete with.

“(There’s) a different potential from the money they can spend. In the end, they also have different targets. You have to have money to do this.

“That’s only one side. The other side is you have to work with the players you have.

“Eddie worked very long in Bournemouth and in the end struggled with his team and had no other job until he went to Newcastle. In Newcastle, he has shown immediately that he knows what to do with the team.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Southampton – Adam Armstrong

Southampton have been a little too reliant on Che Adams in attack of late, so now would be a fine time for Armstrong to come to the fore. The forward no doubt agrees, as a former Newcastle player and fan. He never scored a goal for the Magpies but would love to put one past them on Sunday.

Newcastle United – Bruno Guimaraes

Guimaraes has called on fans to vote for fellow contender Miguel Almiron for October’s Premier League Player of the Month, but the Brazil midfielder was the star of the show when Newcastle last visited Southampton. He marked his first start with a stunning winner and will be looking for a repeat.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– After winning four of five Premier League meetings with Newcastle between 2014 and 2016 (D1), Southampton have won just one of their last 10 against the Magpies (D3 L6).

– Newcastle have won two of their last three away league games against Southampton (L1), as many as they had in their previous 31 visits. They are looking to win consecutive away league games against Saints for the first time.

– Southampton have not won any of their last 13 Premier League games against teams starting the day in the top four of the table (D5 L8) since a 1-0 victory over Liverpool in January 2021. Saints have conceded 39 goals across these 13 games, at an average of three per game.

– Southampton have won just one of their last eight Premier League games (D2 L5), while just one of their three Premier League victories so far this season has come on home soil (2-1 v Chelsea in August).

– Newcastle have won their last three Premier League games, last winning four in a row in April. The Magpies have scored four-plus goals in three of their last six Premier League games, as many as in their previous 197 top-flight games combined.