Manchester City welcome Liverpool to the Etihad Stadium in what could prove to be a crucial encounter in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League.
Both sides made blistering starts to the season but tailed off later in the year – giving Chelsea a significant advantage in the title race. City currently holds a one point lead over the Reds and sit in third but do have a game in hand. Earlier in the season, Liverpool won 1-0 at Anfield in a match dominated by the Merseysiders.
Using both City and Liverpool players, we pick our combined XI…
Goalkeeper – Willy Caballero (Manchester City)
Few would have expected Willy Caballero to be Manchester City’s number one at the start of the season. Pep Guardiola shipped Joe Hart to Italy and signed Claudio Bravo to replace him. But the Chilean has proved to be one of the worst signings in Premier League history, and City’s form has drastically improved with Caballero on the side. Liverpool’s keepers haven’t fared much better with Loris Karius being dropped for Simon Mignolet who continues to cost Liverpool goals.
Right-Back – Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool)
It’s a no-brainer at right-back with Liverpool’s Nathaniel Clyne getting the nod. The England international has been a consistent performer in the Reds defence following his move from Southampton. Defensively, he is one of the best in the league but must improve his end product – he has just two assists to his name this season. Nevertheless, he is an improvement on Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta.
Centre Back – Joel Matip (Liverpool)
Arguably one of the signings of the summer is Joel Matip. Arriving on a free from Schalke, Matip slotted seamlessly into the Liverpool back four and instantly looks like the club’s best defender. The Cameroonian international hasn’t had a consistent partner in Liverpool’s defence, but there’s no denying that Liverpool looks much better with Matip on the side.
Centre Back – Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City)
Next to him, we have Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi – who could be considered City’s best defender due to Vincent Kompany’s injury woes. The Argentine cost a pretty penny, £28m from Valencia, but there is a sense he has only shown glimpses of his evident quality. Otamendi has games where he looks a liability but others where he looks as solid as a rock. Under Guardiola, he should continue to improve and become an important part of the City’s defence for years to come.
Left-Back – Aleksandar Kolarov (Manchester City)
Another difficult position to fill is left-back. Liverpool’s struggles on the left of defence has forced Jurgen Klopp to use James Milner out of position at the back. Initially, Milner was brilliant, but Klopp’s experiment has begun to falter. Therefore, we’ve picked Aleksandar Kolarov due to his natural ability in the position. It is expected both sides will buy a left-back in the summer transfer window.
Centre Midfield – Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)
Another shrewd piece of business by the Reds saw them pick up ex-Newcastle midfielder, Georginio Wijnaldum, for £25m. It was unclear where Wijnaldum would feature in Klopp’s plans, but the Dutch international has been the perfect fit in the German’s 4-3-3 system. He has scored some huge goals this season – including the winner against City at Anfield and the equaliser against Chelsea. Wijnaldum is a huge hit with Liverpool fans and has been one of the best midfielders in the league this year.
Centre Midfield – Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Equally important to his side is Fernandinho – the heart of the Manchester City midfield. I gave Jordan Henderson a thought, but I consider Fernandinho to be the well-rounded midfielder and someone who is much more adept in the defensive midfield role. The Brazilian is a crucial cog in Guardiola’s system at the Etihad.
Right Wing – Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
On the right wing, Sadio Mane beats Raheem Sterling to the starting berth. The ex-Liverpool winger has impressed this season, but Mane has been on a whole other level. The Senegalese wide man has the same amount of assists (5) but has scored six more goals than the Englishman which brings his tally to 12 since his £34m move from Southampton.
Attacking Midfield – Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Possibly the best-attacking midfielder in England is Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne. City’s gain has proved to be Chelsea’s loss after the London club sold the Belgian to Wolfsburg before his switch to Manchester. De Bruyne has nine assists to his name as well as scoring four goals so far this season. Only Christian Eriksen has completed more key passes than the 25-year-old.
Left Wing – Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
On the left of our attacking trio is Philippe Coutinho, who just about pips David Silva to our XI. Coutinho hasn’t looked the same following an injury suffered in November which ruled him out of contention for months. Before the setback, Coutinho was proving why he is one of the most exciting players in the league; scoring six and assisting five in Liverpool’s superb run of form. Liverpool fans will be hoping the Brazilian will be back to his best soon and will expect a big performance against the Citizens.
Striker – Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Our final position was another no-brainer with Sergio Aguero leading the line for our combined XI. Roberto Firmino was also considered, but Aguero is easily the best striker in the Premier League. He has 12 goals this season – averaging a goal every 134 minutes. Despite having a torrid time at Anfield earlier in the season, he didn’t register a single touch in the box, Aguero can turn any game on its head, and Liverpool defenders will be well aware of the threat he poses.
What do you think of our combined XI? Comment below!