Liverpool vs Manchester City: A combined XI
With the mouth-watering Champions League tie only a couple of days away, which players would make the starting XI if the two sides merged?
Liverpool and Manchester City were the only two British clubs left standing in this season’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw was made back on March 16th.
When the final whistle blows on April 10th, there’ll only be one.
The football Gods have decided it’s time to pit arguably the Premier League’s two most exciting sides against one another as the world licks its lips in anticipation.
With both sides delivering on the pitch this season, how would a combined mega-team look, and who would make the cut?
Both sides regularly adopt a 4-3-3 formation, so there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken…
GK – Ederson
It’s hard to find a fault in any the Manchester City regulars this season, and goalkeeper Ederson gets the nod over opposite numbers Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet.
While Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has had a dilemma on his hands on who to hand the number one status to at Anfield, Ederson’s debut season at the Etihad has gone very smoothly.
Only Manchester United’s David de Gea has kept more clean sheets than the Brazilian, while the City stopper has conceded only 21 goals in 32 games.
RB – Kyle Walker
A relatively simple pick here. As well as youngsters Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold have done while sharing Liverpool’s right-side of defence, Walker has been an integral part of ‘the Pep Guardiola way’.
Walker spends more time in the opponent’s half than his own, and his ability to get at his opposite number regularly is an extra weapon to a potent City attack.
CB – Nicolas Otamendi
The rock at the centre of Guardiola’s defence this season.
After a questionable start to life in the Premier League, Otamendi is finally looking settled. The Argentinian has also dealt well with playing alongside different partners.
John Stones, Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte have all filled in alongside Otamendi, who himself has only missed one game all season.
CB – Virgil van Dijk
Perhaps one of the harder positions to fill in this collaboration is that of the second centre-half.
Otamendi aside, there hasn’t been a clear favourite on either team. Liverpool have tinkered, using a mixture of Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren at the back before Dutchman van Dijk arrived at Anfield.
Since his inevitable January move, he’s helped steady Liverpool at the back, and the ability to play and pass out from the back gives him the nod over the class but injury-prone Vincent Kompany.
LB – Andrew Robertson
The Scottish fullback has impressed of late. He took a while to wrestle the starting left-back spot away from Spaniard Alberto Moreno, but Robertson has been in fine form since and fully justifies his routine selection.
Injuries have forced Guardiola to experiment with his tactics slightly in recent weeks, with the left-back position being scrapped in place of a wing-back – Fabian Delph, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Danilo have all previously shared the responsibility.
Robertson though, much like Walker on the right side at City, has been given the freedom to maraud forward to support attacks by Klopp, and often finds himself in the opposing 18-yard box.
CM – Kevin De Bruyne
Arguably one of the first names on this team sheet. De Bruyne’s exploits for Manchester City this season have been nothing short of outstanding.
De Bruyne’s ability to find space, pick passes and slice opposition defences open is unrivalled this season, and in current form, he would walk into almost any of the continent’s top sides.
Both clubs play with similar styles, so the outcome over both legs may come down to the control of the midfield.
With the prowess and ability of De Bruyne in the middle of the park, though, you’d feel confident of winning any game.
CM – Fernandinho
Much like the second centre-half slot, the holding midfielder position in this combined XI isn’t the easiest of choices. But over the course of the season, the Brazilian gets the nod.
Fernandinho’s performances this season have been often overshadowed by the firepower of City’s attack – it’s a situation not too dissimilar to the one that N’Golo Kante found himself in during Leicester City’s title-winning season.
Manchester City are often so dominant in possession and going forward that Fernandinho is solely relied upon to remain disciplined enough to carry out defensive duties. He does it very well and deserves a starting spot.
CM – David Silva
Yes, these midfield choices are heavily biased towards Manchester City, but it’s hard to argue that any of Emre Can, Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been better than Silva overall.
In fact, the Spaniard has the same amount of goals and only two fewer assists than the four of them combined.
His instructions and responsibilities may allow him the freedom to get forward slightly more often than his competitors, but there is no disputing his talent and ability to impact a game – has to start.
RW – Mohamed Salah
Salah’s inclusion is almost as sure a thing as the sun rising. His importance to Liverpool this season doesn’t need mentioning as he netted his 29th league goal of the season away at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Realistically, he and De Bruyne have been locked in a two-horse race for this season’s player of the year award for some time – might this tie impact the decision?
Either way, having these two on the same team is something we’d all love to see – isn’t that right, Jose…?
ST – Sergio Aguero
Probably the closest toss-up of the entire selection: Sergio Aguero or Roberto Firmino? The Argentinian nicks it, just.
Yes, Firmino’s form has been solid, and his link-up play with Salah and Sadio Mane has been a joy to watch, but Aguero’s ability to impact a game on his own gives him the edge.
The Manchester City hitman is more capable than making things happen by himself – a Salah or Mane-less Firmino is much less effective.
A close call, but Aguero’s 21 goals compared to Firmino’s 14 in seven fewer games is the killer stat.
RW – Raheem Sterling
Out of the many players to have improved under Guardiola’s stewardship, Sterling’s transformation has been the most notable.
Sterling has already scored more than double the amount of goals this season as he got throughout the whole of last.
His creativity, link-up play with De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and Aguero has been phenomenal, and he looks a player reborn.
We haven’t seen Sterling this confident since his Liverpool days alongside Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, and England fans will hope it carries into the summer. For now though, he makes this XI.
Loris Karius (GK)
The German has established himself as Klopp’s number one – confidence growing.
Vincent Kompany (CB)
A guaranteed starter if not so injury-prone. A great leader and a key member of any side.
Capable of playing on both sides if needed, would challenge for a start if it wasn’t for injuries.
James Milner (CM)
A valuable, experienced and versatile player despite increasing age, edges out Ilkay Gundogan.
Leroy Sane (LW)
Capable of playing both flanks, Sane always impacts a game, pushes Sterling for a starting spot.
Bernardo Silva (RW)
The form of his teammates has limited his chances so far, but a quality option from the bench.
Roberto Firmino (ST)
Guaranteed a place on the bench after narrowly missing out to Aguero – great option to have.
All to play for…
On paper, Manchester City’s stars take up most the spot – they’re top of the league with 88 goals scored and a +67 goal difference for a reason.
City have been remarkable this season while Liverpool have positively surprised since the departure of Philippe Coutinho.
League form will undoubtedly go out of the window for this tie, and Liverpool’s European history and pedigree as a club may well have more of an impact than people think.
City have the slight edge with firepower in an attack, but could their relatively new status at this stage be a hindrance?
Either way, it’ll be a spectacle.