Gutierrez backs pal Enrique to help Newcastle into Europe

EURO VISION ... Jonas Gutierrez, right, is hoping United qualify for European football next season.
EURO VISION ... Jonas Gutierrez, right, is hoping United qualify for European football next season.

NEWCASTLE United’s Jonas Gutierrez is backing pal Jose Enrique to edge the club closer to Europe.

Enrique, Andy Carroll and Craig Bellamy can do their old club a huge favour in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.

If Liverpool – who have already qualified for Europe through their Carling Cup win – beat Everton at Wembley, the top flight will be handed an extra Europa League place.

Enrique started Tuesday night’s game at Ewood Park on the bench, with Kenny Dalglish resting him and captain Steven Gerrard.

But the defender – who swapped St James’s Park for Anfield last summer – will be back in Dalglish’s starting XI at Wembley.

Carroll – who scored Liverpool’s late winner against Blackburn Rovers – is also vying for a start, along with Bellamy, who played for United in the Champions League under Sir Bobby Robson.

Argentina international Gutierrez remains close to fellow Spanish-speaker Enrique from their three years together at Newcastle, where they forged a close bond.

And the 28-year-old’s hopeful Liverpool will come out on top.

“They have the semi-final of the FA Cup,” Gutierrez told the Gazette.

“They have to think about that, and be ready for the next season. There’s nothing they can do this season (in the league). There are a lot of teams taking good results.

“It’s hard, but I speak with him. I said ‘you have to focus on the semi-final’. That can help us.

“If I was a Liverpool player, I would think the semi-final is more important than the league.”

Enrique has been vilified on Tyneside this season for his Twitter rant last summer.

The 26-year-old became disillusioned with the club’s transfer dealings in the wake of Carroll’s sale to the Anfield club, and was fined for comments made while on Newcastle’s pre-season tour of the United States.

Enrique tweeted: “This club will never again fight to be among the top 6 with this policy.”

The outburst hastened his exit from St James’s Park, but Enrique won’t be playing in the Champions League with Liverpool next season.

United’s fans have chanted “Jose Enrique, we’re in the top five” in recent weeks.

And the Spaniard’s every touch was booed when he returned to St James’s Park with Liverpool earlier this month.

Gutierrez said: “I spoke with Jose before and after the game.

“He’s a nice guy. They’re not having a good season, but they have good players.

“All the season can change, and they could be brilliant next season. Pre-season is really important for all the teams.”

Twitter: @milesstarforth