Weekend football will be more than just a clash of exciting teams — another game will be played out on the touchline.
If on Saturday, in England — Elland Road in Yorkshire to be precise — master Marcelo Bielsa prepares for a clash against his pupil Pep Guardiola, Italy’s Turin will see a battle of old chums — Andrea Pirlo hosting Gennaro Gattuso.
There is probably no fixture that will whet the appetite as much as the Premier League clash between Leeds United and Manchester City.
Argentine Bielsa has transformed Leeds from a team stuck in a long battle to get out of the second-tier Championship into one of the most fascinating to watch in the Premier League. In the three matches Leeds have played so far, the Goals For column says eight and Goals Conceded is seven. Always expect the unexpected from Bielsa’s Leeds.
Guardiola’s impact on City is well documented, with the Spaniard winning two league titles whilst introducing his trademark passing style.
The former Barcelona coach is an obsessive student of the game and before embarking upon his coaching career he visited Bielsa in 2006 at his ranch outside Rosario.
A long conversation about the game followed — over meats roasted on an open fire — and the pair have maintained a mutual respect ever since.
Man City are not in their best form at this point in time. Their 2-5 loss to Leicester City at home exposed flaws in Guardiola’s system.
During their playing days, Pirlo and Gattuso formed one of the most lethal and successful midfield partnerships. Whether it’s for AC Milan or the Italian national team, the duo, with their contrasting styles, formed a formidable backbone.
Napoli coach Gattuso began his life in dug-out quite early. It’s his sixth club since starting his professional coaching career in 2013.
After a rookie Pirlo was catapulted by the Juve management to the hot seat, Gattuso had this to say: “Well he’s screwed now… That’s the job. He’s lucky to be starting at Juventus, but this profession is one where a great playing career is not enough. You have to study, to work hard, and you don’t get much sleep.”
Also on Sunday, Ivan Rakitic, wearing a Sevilla shirt, will be travelling to Camp Nou. That will be a reunion of old friends.