Erling Haaland: Dortmund know their enemy – but can even they stop Manchester City striker?

Haaland’s record in all competitions for City now stands at 12 goals in eight games and even that is with counting the Community Shield. Eight days on from City’s last outing, as the sport creeps back into life, it is no less of an extraordinary stat or an extraordinary start. In league and European competition, only one team – Scott Parker’s Bournemouth – has stopped him from getting on the scoresheet. Still, some at Dortmund believe they have what it takes to be the second.

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Nico Schlotterbeck, a young and highly-rated centre-half who joined from Freiburg this summer, is particularly confident. The 22-year-old, whose arrival helped push Akanji into City’s arms, this weekend recalled his battle with Haaland in a 2-1 win against Dortmund last year. “In that game, I realised how good I can be,” he said, despite speaking in the aftermath of a 3-0 defeat to managerless RB Leipzig. “I know how to stop Erling Haaland. We have to stop City as a whole.”

Schlotterbeck may be right but it is telling, perhaps, that the only Dortmund player to in any way downplay Haaland’s deadliness is one who was not training with him day in day out over the past two years. Those who know Haaland personally and up close have sounded much more deferential. When the question of how to stop the Norwegian was put to Jude Bellingham at Dortmund’s pre-match press conference, he was forced to admit that, frankly, he doesn’t know.

“I’m not really sure to be honest,” the England international said. “We’ll have to find out tomorrow. He’s a player with a lot of quality, a lot of physical attributes that make him so dangerous. It’s not a thing that’s an individual task, it’s something that the team has to deal with collectively. I think if we stick together and we try to do the right things without the ball, it can be possible.”

Edin Terzic is tasked with devising the game plan. The Dortmund head coach tested City in the quarter-finals of this competition the season before last, while serving as an interim manager. Despite losing 4-2 on aggregate, they were ahead on away goals at half time of the second leg. Terzic was moved upstairs at the end of the season and replaced by Marco Rose, only to be rushed back into the dugout this summer. His previous experience of pushing City hard should come in handy.

“It’s not easy to analyse them,” he said. “If we were to just look at their goals from the last few weeks, we’d have to spend 45 minutes just watching the recordings.” A good half hour would be taken up by his former player. “City have become stronger and more dangerous with Erling but even without him, they have a lot of quality. They’ve been the top favourites in the Champions League over years and in the strongest league worldwide, they keep getting 90 points and scoring endless goals.”

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The Dortmund coach is, unsurprisingly, planning for City to dominate. “We need to keep the ball because they have a lot of momentum and force. Sometimes they have 70-80 per cent possession. For you, that leaves 20-30 per cent. How can you use that possession to cover and position yourself? One and a half years ago we showed we can do it.”

But crucially, one and half years ago, he was the one with Haaland. Those two games were rare occasions when the Norwegian did not score. Despite Dortmund knowing their enemy, it is hard to see him drawing a blank again.

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