By Chris Davie
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has tipped Manchester City winger Jesus Navas to be one of the Premier League's stellar performers this season.
Despite being threatened with relegation last term, the Magpies secured a 16th-placed finish and face a tough opening to their new campaign at the Etihad Stadium on Monday evening.
As well as a new manager at the helm in Manuel Pellegrini, City boast a wealth of additions to their squad, including Stevan Jovetic, Alvaro Negredo, Fernandinho and Navas, but Pardew maintains that his side can secure an upset.
"It'll be a great platform for us to start our campaign. We're the underdogs in the game and hopefully we can spring a surprise," Pardew told Goal.
|NEWCASTLE'S OPENING PREMIER LEAGUE FIXTURES
||v Manchester City (A)
||v West Ham (H)
||v Fulham (H)|
||v Aston Villa (A)
||v Hull City Tigers (H)
"Manchester City have probably spent more [this summer] than the three years I've been here [at Newcastle]. Their level is enormous but that doesn't mean to say we can't bridge that gap.
"I think Navas is potentially a player of the season, from what I've seen of him. I think they [City] are the team that are probably a little bit stronger than last year, even with the season they had."
Following the arrival of Joe Kinnear as the club's new director of football in June, Newcastle have struggled to bolster their attacking options, with only Loic Remy signing from QPR on a season-long loan.
But, with summer target Darren Bent joining Fulham and a move for Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis looking unlikely, Pardew is hopeful of a new forward acquisition before the end of the transfer window.
"You've always got to keep your options open," the 52-year-old noted. "Particularly in the market that we're in, it's a difficult market. We have to work outside the normal fields, we can't get the top, top players, we have to find players who hopefully are going to be top players.
|MAN CITY v NEWCASTLE
|15/4||Jesus Navas is 15/4 with BetVictor to score in a Man City win over Newcastle
"If a great player comes to me on the last day of the transfer window, trust me, I'll be absolutely delighted."
Pardew was speaking at the second-season launch the of Budweiser Club Futures at Raynes Park FC in south London, a programme investing £1 million in non-league football.
"Grassroots is the lifeblood of the game. The communities and the football teams that are out there, they are a pathway. These non-league clubs represent that," said the Newcastle boss.
"It's brilliant that the Budweiser Club Futures programme is in place. It's a fantastic idea. I've seen the benefits of it at Raynes Park also up at Blyth Town, who won the big one last year - £100,000 - as can you imagine, at non-league level, that's enormous."
Alan Pardew is backing the Budweiser Club Futures programme for a second season, which will give eight £50,000 grants to non-leagues in Steps 5-7 of the football pyramid. Clubs can apply at www.TheFA.com/BudweiserClubFutures