Steven Gerrard and Pep Guardiola face each other for the first time since 2001 UEFA Cup

First they met on the field and now in the dugout. It will be a moment to sit back and reflect on even the most ardent football supporter. Tonight, two legends, Pep Guardiola and Steven Gerrard, will go head-to-head as Premier League bosses.

It will be their first meeting since their infamous clash in the 2001 UEFA Cup semi-finals, an event that will be etched in history forever.

This is because a photo has been unearthed from the archives of a fresh Gerrard trying to shake hands with Guardiola. The latter, who was on the losing side, seemed to decline the offer as he solemnly left the field.

Steven Gerrard played for Liverpool in their 2001 UEFA Cup semi-final victory over Barcelona

Pep Guardiola (right) played in both legs, his last European ties for Barcelona before leaving

Pep Guardiola (right) played in both legs, his last European ties for Barcelona before leaving

However, there was no real tension between them. No, this was just a disappointed player heading for the exit from Barcelona and expressing his sheer dismay at the result. Gerrard may have been too eager, but there’s no bad blood between them.

“A good player, not bad,” Guardiola said of Gerrard, who will lead his Aston Villa team against Manchester City tonight. He made his comments with a wry smile on his face, pointing back to the draw 20 years ago.

“It was my first time at Anfield. At home it was 0-0 and at Anfield we lost 1-0, a penalty.’

Now Manchester City's manager, Guardiola's players will face Gerrard's Aston Villa

Now Manchester City’s manager, Guardiola’s players will face Gerrard’s Aston Villa

Gary McAllister (left) scored the decisive draw from the penalty spot at Anfield

Gary McAllister (left) scored the decisive draw from the penalty spot at Anfield

He then added: “Steven Gerrard’s career speaks for itself, it was extraordinary. What a player, fantastic.

‘An authentic legend in the Premier League and of course’ [for] Liverpool fans. His contribution to English football was enormous.’

Glowing praise for his former midfield opponent, indeed. However, the respect between the two tacticians is likely to be taken away at kick-off, especially in light of what’s at stake. Villa is in excellent form, but City are going for the title again.

Something will have to be given and Gerrard will try to win back Liverpool’s spirit in 2001 as he looks for a third straight win. That day, the Reds defended valiantly and seized their chance from the penalty spot.

Guardiola and Patrick Kluivert were furious after the referee gave a penalty for handball

Guardiola and Patrick Kluivert were furious after the referee gave a penalty for handball

For Guardiola, the two legs were his last European appearances for Barcelona. They came in a moment of change for the all-time great prior to his departure, which meant that his shaken reaction at the final whistle was more than understandable.

Between the scoreless first game at the Nou Camp and the decisive decision, the now 50-year-old announced that he would be putting an end to his career-long stay at the club and instead go abroad to complete his decorated career. .

“I’m going to arrange my career abroad,” he said at a press conference. “It’s not an easy decision to make, but after weighing it up, I think it’s the best.”

In a similar situation as now, Barcelona is in a state of turmoil. Despite taking on a managerial role after arriving in Catalonia, Lorenzo Serra Ferrer was revealed as Louis van Gaal’s surprise successor, but was sacked shortly after the loss at Anfield.

Gerrard has had a great start to his life at Villa as he has won both his matches

Gerrard has had a great start to his life at Villa as he has won both his matches

But despite this, the Barcelona team was still full of supreme talents, including Guardiola. The target was Pepe Reina, who was then 18 years old and nervous. He fluttered into a corner of Gary McAllister early on and set the tone aptly.

However, he was much more confident as he rushed to Michael Owen’s feet as Liverpool continued to create chances. Shortly afterwards, Reina’s opponent, Sander Westerveld, had to be alert to tap Rivaldo’s lightning bolt away.

Marc Overmars, formerly of Arsenal, was also a constant threat. He started a tricky dribble through several bodies clad in red, beating Luis Enrique, who would go on to lead the club. Unfortunately for him, all he could do was shoot off the target.

And he had to pay painfully when the hosts, cheered by the frenzied Anfield crowd, were given a spot kick. In bizarre style Patrick Kluivert jumped with two arms above his head and made contact with the ball.

Rivaldo (C) is seen trying to get away from Dieter Hamman (R) during the UEFA Cup classic

Rivaldo (C) is seen trying to get away from Dieter Hamman (R) during the UEFA Cup classic

McAllister made himself the hero by standing up and drilling into the roof of the net, leaving Reina stranded and out of luck.

Liverpool advantage, but Barcelona refused to lie down. They punctuated the home side’s goal in search of a leveler in the early knocks of the second half, and the Reds were largely limited to forays forward on the counter-attack.

Gerrard thundered inches off the far post as the minutes ticked by, and he was treated to a lavish reaction from the home fans after he was taken away after sustaining a calf injury. In his absence, Liverpool managed to hold their own.

Years later, Gerrard also recalled the infamous draw and recalled testing his skills against a silky-smooth operator, who struggled with midfield control.

McAllister celebrated full-time amid jubilation, with Liverpool reaching the final

McAllister celebrated full-time amid jubilation, with Liverpool reaching the final

“I am the lucky one to have had the chance to compete against him as a player,” he said during his pre-match press conference yesterday.

“He was a fantastic player. You could clearly tell he was a student of a game by the way he played it, the intelligence and awareness he had.”

Then a student of the game, Gerrard was just a month away from his 21st birthday during the clash, while Guardiola was a seasoned superstar.

In the end, Liverpool won the UEFA Cup, beating Alaves 5-4 in a thriller. It was no surprise that Gerrard was one of the goalscorers – and he kept getting stronger for the rest of his glittering Merseyside career, before hanging up his boots.

Tonight Gerrard will face Guardiola for the first time since the equalizer, but this time as boss

Tonight Gerrard will face Guardiola for the first time since the equalizer, but this time as boss

“I’m glad he’s doing well,” Guardiola added to Gerrard. “He did an incredible job at Rangers, he broke I don’t know how many leagues from Celtic in a row.

‘If you see this [recent Villa] games that you know have ideas behind them. It is a very tough game and a great challenge.’

And it is this revamped Villa that will be City’s next challenge. Suddenly, over the course of a handful of workouts, they become organized, driven, and once again fighting for the badge. Quite simply, Gerrard has done an impressive job.

Guardiola will be aware that this match is a potential banana peel for his slickers, and will have prepared his team in excruciating detail. But underneath it all, this is a meeting between two icons of football, and Gerrard will target yet another culprit.

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