These are the nights Marco Reus looked forward to when he signed for Borussia Dortmund, the Champions League knockouts, exotic trips, the moment you can start to count down the number of ties between now and the final on the fingers of one hand.
A good result in Donetsk on Wednesday, and the German champions can anticipate plugging into the energy their thunderous home support will give them for the return leg and know that, to go through after that, it would be four matches until Wembley in May.
In fact, these are the nights Reus aspired to long ago, with Dortmund, years before last summer's €17 million (Dh76.5m) transfer from Borussia Monchengladbach. At 23, he is old enough to remember when Dortmund were champions of Europe, back in 1997. He lived it vividly, as well as the ups and downs of the club's stumbles, occasional highs, and crises in the decade afterwards.
"As a child," he told The National, "I used to watch matches on the south stand myself, as a supporter. Playing for Dortmund is like a dream came true for me."
A dream somewhat delayed. When Dortmunders look back on the problems at the club of the early 21st century, when they teetered close to bankruptcy, relieved that the strategic errors of that period are in the past, they now wonder if one of the bigger mistakes was to let a quick, skilled teenager in the youth academy leave.
In Reus's five years away, he developed into one of the most exciting German footballer of a glittering generation.
He matured at Monchengladbach, too, added assets to his game like an expertise with a dead ball. It still seemed like a homecoming returning to Dortmund.
"My first months with the club have been very positive and, I think, very successful," he said. "I just really enjoy being with this team, winning together."
To the question of why Dortmund, who topped a group including Real Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City, showed such a marked improvement in the Champions League compared to a 2011/12 campaign in which they finished bottom of their mini-league, it is tempting to answer that the addition to the squad of Reus has been a key.
He contributed goals away in Manchester, Madrid and Amsterdam, warning enough to Shakhtar tonight to make special provision for the blond winger.
Reus acknowledges Dortmund have found a greater potency in Europe.
"This time we actually scored goals and made the most of the opportunities we created," he said. "Last time, Dortmund played well too, but the final ball or finishing was sometimes simply missing. It sounds obvious, but in the Champions League single goals are so important to succeed in the tournament."
He is reluctant to say the competition now looks Dortmund's best chance of a major prize.
The defence of the Bundesliga shield has been complicated by Bayern Munich's almost faultless domestic form and setbacks like last weekend's 4-1 defeat at home to Hamburg. But, in a distinct competition, he fears no hangover from that in Ukraine.
"There is a special atmosphere in the Champions League," he said. "When you walk out on the pitch, and you hear that music, it's a great feeling."
Marco Reus wears Puma PowerCat 1 FG boots. For more information, visit www.puma.com/football
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