NEWCASTLE will lock horns with an old friend when they travel to Leicester City this evening, and Jonas Gutierrez is looking forward to renewing a fierce South American rivalry at the Walkers Stadium.

Leicester became Nolberto Solano’s fourth English club when they signed the veteran midfielder a week-and-a-half ago, and tonight’s televised clash could see him making his Foxes debut against the side that gave him more than 250 senior starts during two spells at St James’ Park.

Solano was back on Tyneside as recently as the middle of this month, building up his fitness as he attempted to secure a short-term contract in England, and the popular 35- year-old was greeted as a longlost son by players and staff alike.

He is particularly close to Gutierrez, with the pair having locked horns on numerous occasions as Peru have taken on Argentina in qualifying campaigns for both the World Cup and Copa America.

The countries’ most recent clash ended in a 2-1 Argentinian victory – a result that enabled Diego Maradona’s side to reach the World Cup finals – and having shaken off the minor knock that forced him from the field during Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace, Gutierrez is keen to see Solano again.

“I know Nolberto, he is a great player,” said the Magpies midfielder. “I played against him recently for Argentina against Peru in a World Cup qualifier. It was a really tough game, but all matches between South American teams are very tough.

“We were lucky to score a winning goal in the last minute. There is great rivalry between the two countries and that game just made it even bigger.

“It will be good to see him again and I’m sure he will try extra hard to get a win against his old club, especially now they have Argentinians playing for them.

“I read that he might be coming back here, and it would have been nice to see him return to Newcastle. But he is playing for Leicester now and we’ll do our best to beat him.”

With Newcastle’s coaching staff having been impressed by Solano’s form and fitness earlier this month, there was speculation he could be offered a short-term deal on Tyneside until the end of the season.

That failed to materialise, and while Newcastle boss Chris Hughton was happy to offer a former Magpie an opportunity to use the club’s facilities, there was never any prospect of a more permanent return.

“I don’t really know him,”

said Hughton. “But from the moment he walked in, it was obvious how popular he was here with the players and staff who remember him.

“He asked if he could train here for two or three days, and that was no problem. He is a good player, but he came here very much to train. There was never anything more in it, although it became very obvious in training what a good player he is.”

Tonight’s game pits Newcastle against a Leicester side that have slipped out of the play-off picture after back-toback defeats at Swansea and Barnsley.

Newcastle, on the other hand, extended their unbeaten Championship run to 13 matches on Wednesday night, and moved eight points clear of third-placed West Brom in the process.

Automatic promotion remains the sole priority for the second half of the season, and Gutierrez has repeated his claim that a return to the Premier League will be worth more to him than an appearance at this summer’s World Cup.

“The players talk about being back in the Premier League all the time,” he said.

“We know there is a long way to go this season, but we speak about promotion. For me, it is more important to end the season back in the Premier League than go to the World Cup. I am serious. Promotion means a lot to me, it is my dream.”