When FC Goa take on Delhi Dynamos at their backyard on Thursday in the Indian Super League (ISL), two close friends will be pitting wits against each other from the dugouts.
FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera and Delhi Dynamos gaffer Josep Gombau are no strangers to each other. Not only are they compatriots championing the Spanish philosophy of football in India but also close friends.
It is no secret that both Gombau and Lobera have their roots in Barcelona and adhere to the Catalonian school of thought when it comes to their footballing style. But both managers spent time together at La Masia with the youth set-up of Barcelona where they started their coaching careers.
Both of them are long-time friends on and off the pitch.
"Sergio and I are very close friends. We worked together at FC Barcelona a long time ago. We shared a good time in the club and we know each other very well. We are also friends outside of football," said Gombau.
The Delhi coach came to Barcelona in 2003 when Lobera was already working there. The two struck up a friendship soon and then went on to become business-partners. They were behind a grassroots project started in the UAE.
It is a testament to their friendship that the duo kept in touch even after they went their separate ways.
"I arrived at FC Barcelona in 2003. Sergio was already at the club by then. He had worked a few years before me at FC Barcelona. We worked together, but not on the same team. He had his team and I had mine. After that, we became good friends. We started our professional journey after that outside of the club, he remained in Spain and I went to Hong Kong," revealed Gombau.
Although they have been at the professional circuit for more than a decade, it will be for the first time that their paths will cross when Goa play Delhi on Thursday.
Though the philosophy of both managers stems from the same roots, their teams are poles apart as far as results and league standings are concerned. If Goa manages to get the three points on Thursday, they will lead the pack whereas Delhi are yet to register their first win and are ninth in the league table.
However, the former Western Sydney Wanderers FC coach is in his first season with Delhi Dynamos while Sergio Lobera is currently in his second campaign with FC Goa. But one has to note that Lobera had a brilliant season in his first year, leading the Gaurs to the play-off.
"He (Lobera) is a very good coach, one who has a lot of knowledge. He has a good reputation back in Spain. He is a coach that likes to keep the ball, play attacking football. I like him very much. Yes, he and I grew up in the same place. We come from FC Barcelona and when you are in FC Barcelona, you have this philosophy in your mentality, in your brain.
"I am also a coach that likes to have the ball and possession and like to play attacking football. The difference between me and him right now is that he is in this project (FC Goa) in the second year and I am starting. They are playing very good football and the job he is doing is very good and the people there should be very happy with him," said Gombau.
Judging by the start to the season, it might be unrealistic to expect Gombau to lead the Dynamos to the play-off. But he could take a leaf out of his close friend's book and try to salvage something from the club's poor start.
For Sergio Lobera, the unenviable task on hand is to heap more misery and pressure on his friend.