Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund’s keenly anticipated Champions League quarter-final could hinge on the battle between Erling Haaland and Ruben Dias.
That is the view of former City favourite Shaun Wright-Phillips, who anticipates an intriguing contest due to the attacking firepower boasted by both sides.
Norway youngster Haaland has rattled home a remarkable 33 goals in 32 appearances across all competitions this season, averaging a goal every 82.8 minutes thanks to a shot conversion rate of 31.4 per cent.
The 20-year-old has also supplied seven assists, although he will be faced with one of Europe’s most formidable centre-backs in Dias.
If speculation proves accurate, Haaland might replace the Portugal defender as City’s record signing at the end of the campaign but Dias’ impact has been undeniably transformative since his arrival from Benfica last September.
City have won 31 of the 39 games in which Dias has played, losing only two and conceding 18 goals – an average of 0.5 per game.
“It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be a great battle for me between [Haaland] and Dias,” Wright-Phillips, who played alongside Haaland’s father Alf-Inge during his time at City, told Stats Perform.
“Dias doesn’t like to lose, let alone concede goals – he hates that as well so it will be a good competition.
“And it stands out to be a good game, with the firepower and the way Dortmund play, and the way City play.
“So it’s going to be a good footballing match and I am looking forward and am very excited to see it myself.”
Always ready… are you? pic.twitter.com/fWr126RaRR
— Erling Haaland (@ErlingHaaland) March 16, 2021
Another intriguing battle that fans will be denied is a face off between England youngsters Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho in each team’s creative departments.
Foden and Sancho were team-mates in City’s youth team before the latter moved to Dortmund in 2017, where he has scarcely looked back.
Remaining with his boyhood club, Foden had to bide his time among a talent-stacked squad but has established himself as a key man for both Pep Guardiola and England boss Gareth Southgate this season.
However, a thigh injury means Sancho will miss out on a return to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday and faces a race to be fit for next week’s return at Signal Iduna Park.
“It would be great to see them both on the field. But they’re very different players,” Wright-Phillips said.
“Although [Foden] does go and dribble past people, he’s got a very good eye in seeing passes, linking up play and he presses harder.
“I think Sancho is a very, very good player as well but he’s more of a dribbler, committing players, taking them on, putting the ball into the box and also scoring goals.”
Along with Liverpool, who take on 13-time winners Real Madrid this week, Chelsea – another of Wright-Phillips’ former clubs – complete a trio of Premier League sides in the last eight.
Thomas Tuchel’s men saw off Atletico Madrid in impressive fashion in the previous round, although they must bounce back from a shock 5-2 weekend loss to relegation-threatened West Brom before taking on Porto.
“As we know it’s one of the toughest competitions,” Wright-Phillips added. “And on the few times City have been on a run in it, they have not had the rub of the green.
“And Chelsea had been playing well with their defensive record, also. I would be happy if it was an all-England final, so I’ll be supporting all English teams in Europe.”