Steven Gerrard warned Frank Lampard to be ready for "war" as the two former Liverpool and Chelsea midfield adversaries prepared to lock horns once more for their Major League Soccer sides here Sunday.
Gerrard’s LA Galaxy and Lampard’s New York City FC meet in Southern California on Sunday in a game being hyped as the most star-studded clash in MLS history, pitting two of the league’s big-spending sides against each other.
The Galaxy’s StubHub Center will be the backdrop for one of the last meetings between Gerrard and Lampard, who regularly featured in the fierce rivalry that developed between Liverpool and Chelsea over the last decade.
Gerrard, who joined Los Angeles in July, played down suggestions that Sunday’s game would be a personal duel with former England midfield partner Lampard, who remains a friend off the pitch.
Promotional posters for Sunday’s game styled the contest as a boxing bout, billing the meeting as “The British Invasion” and featuring Gerrard and Lampard set against the background of a Union flag.
The 35-year-old admitted however that no quarter would be given against Lampard and his NYCFC teammates.
“I’m sure Frank agrees it’s slightly embarrassing to have all the focus on you when it’s Los Angeles Galaxy versus New York,” Gerrard told reporters on Friday.
“It’s about the game and the three points.
“But we understand it – we’ve played together for so many years.”
The rivalry, he added – “it’s real”.
“When that whistle goes and we’re competing for 90 minutes against each other, it’s war.
“We fight against each other, we always have. When the whistle goes to finish there’s a mutual respect there. We’ve always got on off the pitch regardless of what other people say.
“So if Frank plays from the beginning or if he comes on we become enemies, and when the game’s over we become friends again.
“I’ve got nothing but respect and admiration for him as a player. We’re both winners we’re both professional. But he’s coming into town for three points and I want the three points to stay here so that’s where the rivalry begins.”
Gerrard and Lampard have faced each other on 33 occasions, with Lampard winning 15 to 11. However the 37-year-old has endured a patch start to his MLS career, with injuries restricting his appearances for New York.
Gerrard has steadily settled into California since arriving last month, making five starts and scoring a goal in a thrilling win over the San Jose Earthquakes in the “California Clasico” on July 17.
The Liverpool legend said he had been taken by surprise at the standard of the MLS, stating the Galaxy would give a good account of themselves if they were playing in English competitions.
“For sure,” said Gerrard. “The level is a lot stronger than what other people suggested when I came. I’ve been really surprised.
“We’ve got a very good team here, I’m playing for the champions and they know how to win.”
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