It will be a case of The Master v The Apprentice at St Mary’s on Sunday as Mauricio Pellegrino goes head-to-head with his mentor Rafa Benitez.

Pellegrino, then a rangy centre half, first arrived in English football back in January 2005 as Benitez brought him to Liverpool on a free transfer.

Though that stay at Anfield last just six months, he returned to Merseyside in 2008 to work alongside Benitez as a first team coach, and then followed his boss to Inter Milan in 2010.

After that Pellegrino branched out on his own, with a managerial career that has taken him from Argentina to Spain and now England.

Pellegrino will pit his tactical wits against Benitez for the first time on Sunday as the pair take their places in the dugout as Saints host Newcastle.

It will be an emotional moment for Pellegrino, who believes that Bentiez has been the biggest influence on his managerial career.

“I think so but not just tactically, because for me Rafa was one of the persons who changed a little bit the way that the manager teach the player,” said Pellegrino.

“Why? Because in my past when I was a player always we were receiving, ‘you have to do this, you have to do this, you have to tackle, to defend’ but Rafa was different. Rafa asked the players how they feel and he changed completely the mentality in my life.

“At a pedagogic level Rafa was the best in my life.

“In terms of professional person also, it was for me really nice to work with him as a player and to be his assistant for three years at Liverpool and Inter Milan.

“For me it was like a masters, and allowed me to work with a top squad, be involved, learning. Was a nice moment.

“For me football is like life. To try to learn everyday something better. I have to be tomorrow a little bit better than today.”

Benitez’s most famous day at Liverpool came in 2005, as the Reds came back from three goals down at half time against AC Milan to win an incredible Champions League final in Istanbul.

Though Pellegrino was unable to take part on that day, he recalled the managerial magic that turned it around, and hailed it an inspiration.

“We were 15 days preparing the final, preparing how we press, how we attack, set pieces and in 30 minutes they killed us and Rafa changed everything,” he said.

“For this reason there is something more important than organisation and planning. It is imagination. Imagination for me more than planning and organisation.

“He changed everything. We played with three defenders! We never played with three defenders before because we had to control Crespo and Shevchenko better and maybe it allow us to be stronger in the middle.

“We played 3-4-3 and we scored three goals and then we changed again and Steven Gerrard played at full back. I remember that. AC Milan dominated us over 50 minutes and they could have scored a couple of goals I think. And the penalties we won. Nice history.”