UCL; All Eyes On Haaland As Dortmund Visits City

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Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund will both endeavour to continue their perfect starts to the 2022-23 Champions League in today’s Group G battle at the Etihad Stadium.

Pep Guardiola’s side ran out 4-0 winners over Sevilla on matchday one, while BVB eased to a 3-0 success at home to Copenhagen.

Erling Braut Haaland’s goalscoring capabilities in the Premier League may have been called into question before his arrival at the Etihad Stadium – such concerns have since been quashed – but his penchant for Champions League heroics had already been firmly established.

The 22-year-old struck twice in the 4-0 win over Sevilla to take his European tally to 25 goals in 20 Champions League matches, while Phil Foden and Ruben Dias also got in on the act at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, and Haaland needs no added motivation to get one over his old employers here.

Guardiola’s side – like all Premier League teams involved in European competition – have enjoyed the rare luxury of a week off following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, which meant the reigning top-flight champions did not have the chance to put further pressure on Arsenal at the top of the table.

Nevertheless, City has now successfully traversed their first seven games of the season unbeaten in all competitions and have scored at least three goals in each of their four home encounters – racking up 17 in total – and Guardiola will also take charge of a Champions League game for the 150th time this week.

The ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss continues his painful wait for a European honour with the Citizens, but the hosts now have a chance to extend their unbeaten home run to 21 Champions League games this week, and Dortmund travel to England on the back of a painful away-day defeat.

A 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Shakhtar Donetsk saw RB Leipzig turn to former Borussia Dortmund head coach Marco Rose after giving Domenico Tedesco the boot, and the ex-BVB chief oversaw a comprehensive success over his old club in the Bundesliga.

Willi Orban’s header, Dominik Szoboszlai’s screamer and Amadou Haidara’s tap-in wrapped up a 3-0 success for Die Roten Bullen over Dortmund – the same scoreline that the Black and Yellow had inflicted upon Copenhagen during their Champions League opener.

Defeat at the Red Bull Arena ended a run of three consecutive wins and three consecutive clean sheets for Dortmund, who could do with Champions League star Haaland leading the line right now, but the impact of a certain Giovanni Reyna was well and truly felt last week.

Coming on as an early substitute to replace the injured Thorgan Hazard, the 19-year-old set up Jude Bellingham and Raphael Guerreiro’s efforts against Copenhagen and will hope to play a key role as Dortmund set out to avoid a third-straight Champions League loss on the road.

Not since October 2017 have the Bundesliga side drawn on their travels in the Champions League – winning seven and losing 10 such games in the past five years – but they fell to a 4-2 aggregate defeat against Man City in the 2020-21 quarterfinals.

Man City’s centre-back, Aymeric Laporte will definitely miss out, which should lead to a quick reunion for ex-Dortmund defender Manuel Akanji against his former club, as well as Sergio Gomez, who also plied his trade at the Westfalenstadion.

Meanwhile, Dortmund attacker Hazard only lasted 23 minutes of the clash with Copenhagen before having to come off with a thigh injury, but there is hope that the Belgian might be available for this game.

Reyna and Marius Wolf are on standby if Hazard is ruled out, and Dortmund’s lengthy absentee list also includes Gregor Kobel, Sebastien Haller, Mahmoud Dahoud, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and Mateu Morey.