Borussia Dortmund and England star Jadon Sancho will be out to silence his critics when his side take on Club Brugge in their third Champions League group game on Wednesday.
While fellow youngsters Erling Braut Haaland and Giovanni Reyna have hogged the headlines in Dortmund this season, 20-year-old winger Sancho has come under fire in recent weeks for an alleged lack of form.
The Englishman has picked up just two assists in his first five Bundesliga games this season, compared to five assists and three goals at the same stage last term.
Critics suggest that Sancho, who was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United in the summer, has been distracted by speculation over his future.
“Since his departure from Dortmund didn’t work out, Sancho has been a shadow of his former self,” wrote broadcaster NTV on their website last month.
“There was a lot of talk about him leaving, and that can have an influence,” said coach Lucien Favre last week when asked about Sancho’s form.
The 20-year-old hit back last Wednesday, however, scoring the crucial opening goal as Dortmund battled to a hard-fought 2-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg.
After defeat in their opening game against Lazio, Sancho’s performance helped Dortmund to avoid a nightmare start to their European campaign in a group from which they are expected to qualify.
The German side are counting on their English star to deliver again as they look to fight their way into the top two of Group F with a win in Bruges.
His performance will be all the more important if Dortmund are forced to go without Norwegian sensation Haaland, who missed last weekend’s 2-0 victory over Arminia Bielefeld with a knee problem.
Haaland and American teenager Reyna have overshadowed Sancho so far this season, picking up 10 goals and eight assists between them in all competitions.
Yet despite his quieter start to the campaign, there are signs that Sancho may already be maturing into a more senior role in the dressing room.
Now in his fourth Bundesliga season, Sancho has taken fellow Englishman Jude Bellingham under his wing since the 17-year-old joined Dortmund from Birmingham City in July.
“It helps me a lot to get encouragement and praise from (Sancho),” Bellingham told Kicker magazine last week.
“He is really very important for me, not just because he comes from the same country and speaks the same language.
“Even more important is the fact that he puts his arm around me and the other young players.”
That relationship has borne fruit, with Bellingham picking up his first Champions League assist last week, and Dortmund hope that the young English duo can now help steer them towards the knockout stages.