Alan Pardew is backing full-back Jose Enrique to play himself into the Spain squad if he continues to excel for Newcastle. The 25-year-old had another excellent match at Blackburn on Saturday and heads for Birmingham tonight with his reputation growing by the week.
Pardew, the Newcastle manager, said: "Possibly that would be a fitting tribute for him, to get into that squad. It's a tough squad and an outstanding team, but he is showing the sort of form that could get him into that squad, no problem.
"There aren't too many who can hold a candle to him at the moment, the form he is in. If you were the opposition, you would have to start worrying about him defensively because he keeps coming at you. Let alone the other assets we have in the team offensively, you have to look after our left-back because he will raid and raid all day. He has been terrific for us."
Enrique, a former Under-21 international, joined Newcastle in a £6.5m transfer from Villarreal during the summer of 2007. He initially found the going tough, but was one of the key players of last season's promotion drive in the Championship.
Pardew said: "I don't think his first season was particularly great, but he has come on in leaps and bounds. He is one of the first names on my team-sheet and one of the best left-backs I have ever worked with. It's a pleasure to work with him, he is a lovely guy."
Enrique's form has inevitably alerted potential purchasers, and speculation has linked Manchester United and Liverpool with him in recent weeks. Having already seen Liverpool prise Andy Carroll from his grasp with a £35m January bid, Pardew knows the club could face another assault this summer, although he remains desperate to hang on to Enrique. He said: "We are prepared for everything. It's always difficult, but you want to keep your best players."
Saturday's 0-0 draw at Ewood Park means the Magpies have lost only one of the seven Premier League games they have played since the turn of the year, a run which has taken them to 32 points and kept them in the top half of the table ahead of tonight's match.
Pardew added: "It's a very important game and we would like to get three points on the board if we can. It's not easy to do away - I think they [Birmingham] have only lost two at home all year, so they have got a very, very good record."
Carroll's departure and Shola Ameobi's fractured cheekbone – he will fly to America on Thursday to be fitted for a protective mask – have left Pardew with limited attacking options, but he is confident there are still goals in his team.
He said: "The side is in good spirits, a strong team. We have a midfield that could grace and side in the Premier League, I feel, and they create enough chances for us to score goals, so I think we will be OK."