The Barnsley head coach and his Norwich City counterpart were once keen students in the classroom together and now find themselves pitting their wits against each other in the technical area today at Carrow Road, where the Reds have not won in 18 attempts since May, 1937.
Ismael has kept in touch with his friend for several years, although the friendship will be firmly put on hold for 90 minutes today.
The Reds head coach said: “We did our Pro Licence together in 2014 in Germany and spent 10 months together in the classroom and we have been in contact. I will be delighted to see him.
“We have stayed in touch before I got the job at Barnsley and spoke two or three times a year. Just before I took over, I spoke to him about the Championship and it was a good thing as he has a lot of experience of English football.”
Ismael’s Barnsley side may be one of the real form horses of the Championship, but they face perhaps their biggest examination yet today as the Frenchman is quick to acknowledge.
He said: “This is, for sure at the moment, the best team in the league. They are top quality with a really good manager and it is a big challenge, but we are ready.
“We have a lot of confidence from the last games and know what we can do, but we need to be at 100 per cent to keep this high intensity and perform a very good transition. We have to defend set-pieces much better and need a complete performance from the guys.”