Before kick-off, they looked to Norwegian star Erling Haaland, lining up against the team he left a few months ago.
And the Manchester City striker didn’t disappoint, scoring an acrobatic volley with the outside of his boot late on against Borussia Dortmund to win the game for City, who have now gone 21 games in England without losing in the Champions League.
After another goal from Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham, City left it late to mount a comeback. John Stones rocketed home in the 80th minute before Haaland won four minutes later.
After a minute’s silence in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, the two usually exciting sides played out a nervous first half.
Neither team created a clear cut chance and it wasn’t until Bellingham latched on to a Marco Reus cross that either side threatened.
With his fourth goal in the Champions League, Bellingham moved ahead of many players to become the competition’s all-time highest-scoring English teenager.
Dortmund fell further and further behind in their bid to maintain their lead and looked set to hold on for an important win in Group G.
He struck an unlikely hero for John Stones’ home side, scoring a spectacular goal from outside the box, with a finish reminiscent of former City captain Vincent Kompany’s famous goal against Leicester in 2019.
Four minutes later, however, Stones would inevitably be overtaken by Haaland, who once again stole the show.
After a lot of pressure on the Dortmund defense, João Cancelo played a marker from the center of the ball into the area.
The ball looked too high and far for anyone to head on, but Haaland, as is now customary, wowed the fans in attendance by acrobatically finishing with the outside of his left boot in front of a helpless Alexander Meyer.
Pep Guardiola was quick to praise the finish. “The moment he scored, I thought ‘Johan Cruyff’,” said Guardiola, before comparing him to another icon.
“I remember my dear friend [Zlatan] Ibrahimović had that ability to put his foot on the roof and Erling is quite similar in that.
“I think it’s his character. He is elastic, flexible and has the ability to make contact and put the ball in the net.’
Haaland has scored 13 goals in his first nine games for the Citizens and looks set to be a transcendent force for City in the coming months and years.
It was another example of the relentless nature of a 22-year-old who was anonymous for most of the game, but seemed poised to score whenever the ball came close, a consistent theme now.
It’s an idea that Haaland embraces, as he told BeIn Sports after the game: “To touch the ball five times and score five times, that’s my biggest dream.”
Haaland threatened early on when Riyad Mahrez’s cross was headed home by Niklas Süle.
With his first decent chance in the second half, he hit the outside of the post from a tight angle, before again almost getting in to make a last-ditch save from Dortmund defender Mats Hummels’ cross.
But the Norwegian was not to be denied, scoring his 26th Champions League goal in 21 appearances and continuing his incredible rise. No one in the competition has even come close to matching Haaland’s mark, including the tournament’s all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, who did not score his first goal in the competition until his 26th appearance.
The reluctance to put Haaland in the same category as Lionel Messi and Ronaldo is understandable, but if the striker continues at the same pace, he will outshine two of the greatest players the Champions League has ever seen.