With serious firepower from Erling Haaland – and Marco Reus, Jude Bellingham and Gio Reyna in support – Borussia Dortmund should have far too much for Turkish champions Besiktas to handle in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
1) Erling Haaland: Mr Champions League
Step aside Cristiano Ronaldo, move over Lionel Messi, the man who scores the most goals in the Champions League these days is none other than Haaland. In his first 16 outings at European football's top table, the 20-year-old has already plundered 20 goals. That's right, he's averaging over a goal per game having made quite an impact in the competition, right from his early days at Red Bull Salzburg.
His eight goals in six group stage games for the Austrians were added to with two more in his first two outings in the competition for Dortmund, taking him to 10 for the season, fewer only than Robert Lewandowski's 15 in Bayern Munich's title-winning campaign. Haaland does not settle for second best, though, and in his first full campaign for BVB, he scored a competition-high 10 goals.
That was two more than Kylian Mbappe, who went one round further than Haaland with Paris Saint-Germain, and four more than Karim Benzema, who also had two more games in the competition.
That record rightly earned the Norwegian the award of UEFA's Forward of the Season, and having set the bar so high, expect Haaland – who already has five goals in four Bundesliga games this season – to carry on from where he left off last term. Compare that to former Dortmund forward Michy Batshuayi, who leads the Besiktas attack and has just four goals in 13 Champions League games, and it becomes quite clear where the goals are most likely to come from.
Watch: The best of Haaland in the Bundesliga
2) Goals, goals, goals
Speaking of goals, Dortmund are – together with Bayern – the most prolific team in Europe's top five leagues with 13 goals from four games. PSG may have scored 16 in France, but they have already played five matches, bringing their average down to 3.2 per game compared to Dortmund's 3.25.
Haaland has supplied a third of them, but the goalscoring burden at BVB these days is spread across many more shoulders, with seven different goalscorers this season. Raphael Guerreiro opened his account in the weekend's 4-3 win over Bayer Leverkusen, while Julian Brandt, Reus, Reyna, Bellingham and Thorgan Hazard have all been among the goals.
Compare that to Besiktas, who have scored seven all season, and a quick calculation would make Dortmund roughly twice as likely to score.
Besiktas do boast a rather proud defensive record, on the other hand, with not a single goal conceded in their first four games of the Turkish Super League season, but that flawless record will face the its sternest test yet this Wednesday when Dortmund's attacking juggernaut roles into Istanbul.
3) Rose's diamond Dortmund
Dortmund's attacking play has been sharp this term. In fact, it cuts like a diamond – Marco Rose's midfield diamond.
Since taking charge in the summer, Rose has shaped his side into an irresistible form. "We have a clear concept of the kind of football we want to play," Rose told bundesliga.com, "Obviously we're talking about top quality players. Then you then have to slot them into a system that will enjoy attractive and successful football."
That is about as attractive as it comes – a diamond. Mahmoud Dahoud has sat at the base of it with teenage sensations Bellingham and Reyna wide of Reus at the sharp end. In unison, this diamond rotates and carves through the opponent to create space for Haaland.
It is not a new invention by any stretch of the imagination, but to borrow Rose's words, you need the "top quality players" he has to make it so effective, and with his talented troop of ambitious, energetic youngsters, he has a side with the glittering potential to hit Dortmund's targets at home and abroad.
"We might still have to convince the odd person we're onto something really good here, but so far, we're on the same page," added Rose, who can win over more sceptics with a maiden Champions League with BVB.
Watch: Dortmund's Rose diamond
4) Come to Besiktas – Ja, bitte!
Besiktas and Istanbul’s other heavyweights Fenerbahce and Galatasaray are known for their fervent atmospheres, with the latter once greeting Manchester United with a banner reading “Welcome to hell”. Besiktas, though, claim to have the world’s loudest supporters after a cheer back in 2007 was registered at 132 decibels – almost the sound of a military jet taking off.
There must simply be no devices registering sound levels in Dortmund…
A raucous crowd isn’t going to impact BVB in any way. In pre-covid times, their Signal Iduna Park boasted the highest average attendance of any football ground in the world with over 81,000 – and they did it loud. The more than 24,000-strong south stand, the Yellow Wall, was in itself a wave of noise rushing across the field. Players in black and yellow know what a genuinely loud football stadium sounds like.
And although Besiktas can lay claim to a strong record at home – as you’d expect of the domestic champions – with only four defeats in their last 27 at their 42,590-capacity Vodafone Park, they have a pretty woeful record when hosting German clubs, who love to come to Besiktas.
Out of five matches at home to Bundesliga opposition, they have lost four and won only once, scoring just three goals and conceding nine. Among those results is a defeat to Dortmund in the 1989/90 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup first round.
Current sporting director Michael Zorc captained the side as Frank Mill’s goal proved the difference in Istanbul that day, before a 2-1 victory back in Dortmund ensured comfortable progress on aggregate. The Black Eagles have also lost at home to Bayern Munich (twice) and Wolfsburg in the Champions League.
5) European pedigree
Besiktas may be one of the most decorated clubs in Turkey, but they lack serious European pedigree, which has been shown to count in the Champions League. They have never gone beyond the quarter-finals in the European Cup or UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League and only progressed from their group once in the Champions League era. That then saw them thrashed 8-1 on aggregate by Bayern in the 2017/18 round of 16.
By contrast, Dortmund boast a proud European record. They were the first German team to win a continental title when they lifted the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965/66 after beating Liverpool 2-1 in Glasgow. They were then the first Bundesliga club to claim the European Cup following its rebranding as the Champions League, doing so in 1996/97 by beating Juventus 3-1 in Munich.
BVB have been in the Champions League final as recently as 2012/13 when they were only beaten late by Klassiker rivals Bayern. They have also featured in the UEFA Cup final twice. The current DFB Cup holders have got out their group in all but one of their last eight Champions League campaigns, while only being knocked out by the eventual runners-up in each of the last three years.