Four years ago Julian Nagelsmann and Domenico Tedesco were in the same class at Germany's coaching academy. On Saturday, the two youngest coaches in the league meet as bosses of two of the Bundesliga's top six .
"This game is Hoffenheim against Schalke not Nagelsmann vs. Tedesco," insisted Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco in his pre-match press conference on Thursday.
But as the two graduates of the German Football Association's coaching academy prepare for their latest examination, there are bound to be a few scores to settle in the dugouts as well as on the pitch.
Tedesco, 32, graduated top of the class in 2013 with Nagelsmann, 30, in second. But it was the younger man who got his big break first, replacing Huub Stevens in February last year.
His success in first saving Hoffenheim, then leading them in to Europe has paved the way for a glut of young coaches in Germany's top flight. There are currently six bosses under 40 and Tedesco is the least experienced of them all, having taken the Schalke job after just 11 games in charge of Erzgebirge Aue.
Read more: Nagelsmann shows up Ancelotti again
Like his old classmate, Tedesco is off to a flyer. Schalke may have lost to Bayern Munich on Tuesday but they've otherwise impressed, brushing aside Leipzig on the opening day and picking up wins over Stuttgart and Werder Bremen, with a 1-0 loss to Hannover the only other blip.
Age seems to no longer be a barrier to opportunity in Gelsenkirchen with youngsters like Amine Harit, Weston McKennie, Thilo Kehrer and the returning Breel Embolo given a chance to shine.
"I think he’s a very good coach, playing a 3-4-3, good in attacking, good in defending and they have developed well," Nagelsmann said of his friend in an interview with the Bundesliga website.
Both men are considered agile tacticians but Nagelsmann admitted that it was heart rather than strategy that helped his side overcome a two goal deficit to beat Mainz 3-2 on Wednesday. Tedesco is wary of his opponent.
"Hoffenheim have a clear idea of how to play and have strong characters with good mentality," he said. They play at high speed in the last third - not just with fast players but also with their combination play. They are doing really well, so we are faced with a task that is as difficult as the one against Bayern."
High praise indeed. But Nagelsmann has earned it. After the disappointment of exiting the Champions League at the qualifying stage, he's rallied his side to victories over Bayern Munich and Mainz to leave Hoffenheim third in the table.
"I know Domenico but he knows me also," Nagelsmann said. "I’m looking forward to a good game against Schalke."
The Hoffenheim coach isn't a man who'll want to be edged out by a rival again, even if it is an old friend. Losing out on a classroom award is one thing, losing ground in the Bundesliga quite another.
Elsewhere on Matchday 6
- Two years to the day after Robert Lewandowski scored 5 against Wolfsburg, Bayern Munich host the Wolves again on Friday night.
- Borussia Mönchengladbach will be the latest team to try and breach Borussia Dortmund's perfect defense, when they travel to Signal Iduna Park in Saturday's late game.
- Cologne try to get off the mark at unbeaten Hannover on Sunday
Matchday 6 fixture list
Bayern Munich vs. Wolfsburg (Friday 8:30 p.m. CEST)
Stuttgart vs. Augsburg (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.)
Mainz vs. Hertha Berlin
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Werder Bremen vs. Freiburg
Hoffenheim vs. Schalke
Borussia Dortmund vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.)
Hannover vs. Cologne (Sunday, 3:30 p.m.)
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hamburg (Sunday, 6:00 p.m.)