IT'S tempting to frame this afternoon's meeting between Aston Villa and Leicester City – which pits Steven Gerrard against Brendan Rodgers – as the renewal of a bitter rivalry between a former Celtic and Rangers manager.

It would be a stretch, though. While the pair crossed swords in two derbies, there was little fire and brimstone between the two men in the manner that some managers have found themselves embroiled in during the run up to the fixture.

Of course, there was barely enough time for hostilities to emerge and fester with the Northern Irishman terminating his Celtic tenure in February 2019, a mere eight months and two Old Firm games after Gerrard's arrival in the city.

Each game ended in a 1-0 victory apiece – a testament to the immediate defensive solidity that Gerrard's appointment brought to a Rangers side that had conceded 14 times in the five Old Firm games in the season that preceded his arrival.

It has been a similar story, albeit with a smaller sample, in the early instalments of his Villa reign. Since succeeding Dean Smith at the start of last month, his new charges have won twice and lost once, with a goal difference of five for and two against but their most impressive performance arguably came in that midweek defeat by Manchester City who threatened to blown them away in the first half but found Villa a much more difficult proposition after the break. This is what Gerrard does – he forges teams with steely resolve.

There have been obvious parallels to draw between the two men in the manner with which they carried out their midnight flits from Glasgow with barely a glance backwards as they floored it down the M6. For both, the offer of escape routes to England's Midlands were too good to turn down. Rodgers had clearly taken Celtic as far as he could, repeatedly bouncing his noggin off the glass ceiling that European football brought. Gerrard had achieved notable, qualified success in Europe, yet nowhere near the dominance of domestic football that Rodgers had enjoyed.

It is a peculiar stew into which the two men dip their respective spoons this afternoon. Rodgers has found himself under increasing pressure of late and at one point recently he was the bookmakers favourite to become the next manager to lose his job. Of course, that might just be by dint of the fact that, at almost three years in situ, he's reaching that timeframe when fan apathy – the worst of those modern football phenomena – sets in and managers start to become vulnerable, even when seven months removed from the club's first-ever FA Cup win.

But as quickly as the vultures circled, Rodgers fired a few warning shots in their direction. A win against Legia Warsaw in the Europa League, was followed by another in the Premier League against Watford which bucked a habit of performing poorly in the aftermath of European fixtures. Yet the 2-2 draw at Southampton will have been viewed as another missed opportunity especially with most of the teams above Leicester also drawing. Nevertheless, they are knocking on the door of the top six and a win this evening could propel them towards a sustained Champions League challenge that looked unlikely last month.

Villa, meanwhile, could leapfrog their 10th-placed Midland's neighbours if they record their third win in four games under their new manager. Whatever happens don't expect any bad blood between the managers to show on the surface.

Certainly not of the Glasgow blood-and-guts variety. There is, of course, the clear sense that the two men aren't exactly bosom buddies but it predates their time in Scotland. If you're looking for a trigger for where the rivalry between the men began, it was at Liverpool during that title near miss during the 2013/2014 season. Gerrard had spoken glowingly about Rodgers's methods during his time at Anfield but somewhere along the line their relationship became complicated and soured – with the former believed to have been particularly stung by Rodgers' decision to leave him on the bench for a Champions League game against Real Madrid in that same season.

Later, Rodgers took aim when responding to criticism in Gerrard's autobiography of his perceived cavalier approach to that fateful game against Chelsea – the one when 'the slip' entered the football lexicon – that ultimately cost Liverpool the title.

"I don't think I was more or less confident. We'd won 11 on the bounce. You want to go in with confidence,” said Rodgers. "The Chelsea game we played really well but it's just unfortunate it [the slip, with Demba Ba scoring] happens right before half-time. We could have drawn but they score again at the death. It wasn't pressure or anything like that. The last 14 games we won 12, drew one, lost one."

As much as Gerrard appreciated Rodgers as a coach it is quite clear that anyone who watched Rangers under Gerrard and Celtic under Rodgers will know that their styles are quite different. The former's teams (and let's remember tactics under Gerrard are mainly Michael Beale's remit) favour organisation and defensive solidity as a springboard to launch attacks while the latter's place an emphasis on dominating possession.

In that first game at Celtic Park, Gerrard suffered his first defeat in 13 games as Rangers manager. It was a match the hosts dominated, scoring through Olivier Ntcham and striking the post four times as they extended their league derby dominance to almost seven years without defeat. But in that second fixture at Ibrox, the tables were turned. Rangers played on the front foot and their midfield three of Ross McCrorie, Scott Arfield and Ryan Jack, who scored the game's only goal, got in the faces of their Celtic counterparts. Expect to see something similar today with Gerrard opting for an aggressive, hungry, utilitarian midfield in John McGinn, Marvelous Nakamba and Jacob Ramsey that he will demand knocks James Maddison, the Leicester playmaker, off his stride.

A fag paper separated Rangers and Celtic in those slugfests back in Glasgow in the September and December of 2018. It would hardly be the biggest surprise if this evening's encounter followed a similar pattern.