FRANK LAMPARD has labelled his opposite number Marcelo Bielsa as "great for the Championship" and a "top of the tree manager" ahead of Saturday night's eagerly-awaited showdown between Derby County and Leeds United at Pride Park.
Forty-year-old Lampard and 63-year-old Bielsa will lock horns at Pride Park in what will be just a second Championship game in charge for the duo with former Chelsea and England star Lampard taking his first steps in management and ex-Argentina and Chile boss Bielsa coaching in England for the first time.
The former manager of Newell's Old Boys, Athletic Bilbao, Marsielle, Lazio and Lille had already labelled Lampard as a "glory of English football" in his pre-match press conference and the Derby boss had similarly warm words for the Argentinian ahead of Saturday night's Sky live match up at Pride Park (kick-off 5.30pm).
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Tottenham Hotspur chief Mauricio Pochettino are two of the most highest profile managers in the English game to have praised the influence of free-thinking Bielsa's work and ways and Lampard also holds the South American in high esteem.
Bielsa's attacking style and philosophy proved highly evident in his first game in charge for Leeds as a relentless, energetic, pressing and high tempo performance led to an impressive 3-1 defeat of Championship title favourites Stoke City at Elland Road.
Asked for his view on Bielsa's unique approach to coaching and individual ways, Lampard told /www.dcfc.co.uk: "I certainly respect that because he backs it up.
"You can have your way and he is obviously very confident in his beliefs and confident in the model that he brings to every team that he goes to and I certainly respect that.
"If he's different then embrace that because I think we should like that. All of us have very different personalities. He's very real, what you see is what you get but he's also got a great record so there's something very special about the way he sets up his teams.
"It will be a big welcome from myself and I think it should be from the club because he's a great manager.
"You only have to look at his record and his history and his standing in the game and what such great managers in modern football speak about him as a bit of a leader.
"I am certainly looking forward to meeting him and intrigued to go up against him in a managerial battle and we'll open our doors very warmly for him.
"I think it's great to have him in the Championship."
Informed that Bielsa had described him as a 'glory of English football' Lampard smiled: "Wow. I'll definitely give him a warm welcome then if that's the case!
"That's very nice of him and great to hear. I have just said everything I feel about him because of the great career and teams that he has managed so for him to say that about me personally is great.
"I am at the start of my managerial career, he's well into his so I have got a lot more to prove probably in terms of the job.
"But it's very nice of him to say that, I will shake his hand, welcome him and then when the game starts we obviously want to win."
Both sides won their opening Championship fixtures last weekend though Lampard admitted his side were fortunate to gain a 2-1 victory at Reading last Friday night.
Leeds, on the other hand, admits Lampard were full value for their breathless 3-1 beating of title favourites Stoke City at Elland Road.
“Leeds were very, very impressive," said the Rams boss.
"It's a new manager and it's the same as us, all eyes are on to see what's new and what's different and I think Leeds showed a huge amount of energy in their team and they certainly deserved to win that game. They were fantastic.
“It was interesting to watch and now it's up to us at our home.
"They were at home last week so that adrenaline that that brings was on their side.
"We need to make sure that we use our home advantage on our side.
“I expect the atmosphere to be special, from both sets of fans. But it's our home, it's very important for us to take charge."
Leeds and Derby both feature among the front-runners on bookmakers' lists to seal promotion and Lampard is relishing the prospect of renewing a rivalry with the Whites that he was fully aware of at former club Chelsea.
Derby and Leeds regularly locked horns at the top of the First Division in the 1970s at a time when Lampard's dad Frank was strutting his stuff for West Ham.
“I’m aware of the history,” said Lampard.
"I’m aware of the great Leeds teams and I know exactly the rivalry that there was in those days and those things don't go away. I've seen them before, Chelsea Leeds have a big rivalry of similar feeling.
"It's good, as long as it is channelled in the right way off the pitch but I think on the pitch we will certainly feel it in the stadium as we should do.
"We are all here for these kind of games, we should love that kind of rivalry and hopefully it's uplifting for the players and it should be because it's two great names of English football and it will be a big game between two teams that I think are very talented.
"They’ve got some good players and have brought in one of the real ‘top of the tree’ managers.
"It will be an honour to go up against him and the challenge for me is can I pick a team that will get the better of his team?”