Ilkay Gundogan does not believe Erling Haaland is nervous about facing former club Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Haaland will line up against the team he left for Manchester City in June when Dortmund visit the Etihad Stadium for the Group G encounter.
The Norway international has scored 25 Champions League goals in 20 appearances, the most by any player in their first 20 games in the competition.
Fifteen of those came in 13 matches in the competition for Dortmund, and Haaland could become just the second player to score a Champions League goal both for and against the German side, after Ciro Immobile.
The smart money is on him doing so, given his remarkable start to life at City.
Haaland has 10 goals in just six Premier League games, that tally comprising two hat-tricks, and netted a brace in City’s Champions League win at Sevilla last week.
Gundogan spent five years at Dortmund from 2011 to 2016 before joining City, helping the club win the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double under Jurgen Klopp in 2011-12.
But Gundogan expects the occasion to be more special for Haaland than for himself, though he senses no trepidation in the 22-year-old.
“No, I saw him very happy,” Gundogan told a media conference when asked if Haaland was nervous.
“He was sitting next to me and was very happy, he was asking me [how I felt]. We’re both very excited to play our former team.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 8, 2022
“For me it’s more in the past, but for him it’s going to be a lot more special because he’ll know 95 per cent of the squad.
“I know a few players and really looking forward to the game here and in Dortmund, it’s a special occasion for both of us.”
Sergio Gomez and Manuel Akanji also formerly plied their trade at Dortmund, the latter joining in the most recent transfer window, and Gundogan does not believe it is possible for the quartet playing their former club to take the emotion out of the game.
“‘I’m sure it’s impossible to take it out because we will have memories attached to Dortmund, I believe all four of us have mainly positive memories, so quite difficult to take emotions out completely,” he added.
“You deal with them in the best possible way, about using them in your favour, not to be over excited, keep calm and cool, which can be the most difficult thing in football.”
City lost the Champions League final to Chelsea in 2021 and then fell victim to a comeback from Real Madrid in last year’s semi-final.
“The most important thing is the margin of making mistakes, the little details that decide, especially in quarter-finals, semi-finals and final obviously, the margin is so tight that no mistakes are really allowed,” Gundogan said of learning from those experiences.
“The last few years the way we got knocked out was maybe a bit tragic in the way it happened, but I don’t think we should regret anything, it’s always an experience for us.
“It was incredible to play in the final, even if we lost it, it was an incredible experience. As a competitor you learn from it, try to get there again and do better. The target for the season is the same, reach the maximum and see what can happen.”
Asked if Haaland can be the difference in this competition this season, Gundogan replied: “We hope for it. Obviously having a proper number nine, proper striker, physically strong, determined is going to help us a lot, but we will see.
“Winning the Champions League is something incredible to achieve, a very tough competition, it’s never easy and little details can decide the outcome. We’ll try as hard as we can to go as far as possible.”
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