Two of the biggest names in world football at the moment are set to go head-to-head in a mouthwatering clash in the UEFA Champions League semifinals.
Real Madrid and Manchester City have an indisputable amount of pedigree flowing through their squads across every position. And if a combined XI was to be made with the two rosters, the result would be a team with frightening quality.
Let us take a look at a hypothetical combined XI consisting of the best players from each side.
An incredibly tough choice, as Ederson and Thibaut Courtois, are two of the best keepers in the world. It comes down to weighing up the pros and cons of the system.
So, while Ederson fits the Man City system so well due to his impeccable distribution, if this team were to choose a goalkeeper down to pure shot-stopping ability, Thibaut Courtois gets in ahead of the Brazilian.
Few keepers have been as reliable as the Belgian when it comes to saves or thwarting attackers in 1-v-1 scenarios.
This season (per fbref and in their respective leagues) Courtois has faced 107 shots, saving 79 of them with a save percentage of 74.8%, while Ederson has saved 50 shots out of the 72 he has faced with a percentage of 72.2%.
Kyle Walker – Ruben Dias – Eder Militao – Joao Cancelo
At left-back, there can be no qualms about the selection of Joao Cancelo. The Portuguese has arguably been the best left-back in the world this season, and arguably one of the most efficient players in the world in general.
Cancelo has three goals and nine assists from left-back this season across all competitions, making him a major threat going forward, and his recovery pace is a huge asset while defending.
At centre-back, there is a lot to choose from. David Alaba, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are all very accomplished in their own right, but Ruben Dias and Eder Militao make the perfect duo to marshal the backline.
With Dias’ brilliant spatial awareness, strength and tackling ability he is undroppable in this team, just as he is in Pep Guardiola’s City setup. Militao, on the other hand, brings brilliant aerial ability, pace and youthful aggression to perfectly complement his CB partner.
On the right side, Kyle Walker slots in comfortably. Having established himself as one of the most solid fullbacks in the world ever since moving to Manchester City, his incredible speed and tirelessness round out a very balanced backline.
Kevin De Bruyne – Toni Kroos – Luka Modric
Modric and Kroos have been one of the most revered midfield partnerships of this generation. The Real Madrid duo can rightfully stake a claim as two of the best midfielders of all time.
Modric’s footwork and ludicrous creativity gives the Ballon d’Or winner a nailed-on spot in this combined XI.
Although Casemiro is in with a shout of being in this side as well, ignoring a player as intelligent as Kroos who can manage the game with his technique and smart decision-making is very difficult. Not to mention, he is not afraid to work hard and get his hands dirty sometimes.
In the final midfield spot comes the mercurial Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian is arguably the best midfielder in the world at the moment and has consistently been in that discussion for the past few years.
His technical ability is not up for debate, but to go with it, he brings incredible energy to the team with a willingness to run hard and proactively make things happen.
De Bruyne is always scanning his surroundings and his low crosses or line-breaking through passes are sights to behold. Not to mention, of the midfielders mentioned so far, he has the sharpest eye for goals and the ability to get them.
Riyad Mahrez – Karim Benzema – Vinicius Jr
Two tricky wingers and a lethal centre-forward make the perfect recipe for an attacking trio.
Mahrez jumps to mind immediately as a goal-scoring right-winger with a delightful first touch. He is the obvious candidate for the right flank, with his flair and eye for goal. The Algerian has 22 goals across all competitions this season.
Vinicius Junior comes in on the left side after a tremendous season for the Brazilian. His stint at Real Madrid started off slow, and he was seen as a diamond in the rough, particularly due to his woes with finishing.
However, Vini has truly come into his own this season. His dazzling speed and quick feet are a nightmare to deal with for any defender.
To complement that, he seems to have resolved his confidence issues in front of goal, and has been providing assists for fun. His haul of 17 goals and 14 assists in all competitions is nothing short of spectacular.
And finally, we have Karim Benzema. At 34, he has been in spectacular form and is arguably the best player in the world at the moment. The Frenchman is joint second in the race for the European Golden Boot and is running away in the La Liga top scorer charts.
His movement, finishing and creativity to boot, make him an incredibly dangerous striker with an air of inevitability every time he takes to the pitch. Any chance, no matter how small, on his right foot, left foot or head, can turn into a goal.
City’s own midfielder Ilkay Gundogan also said that Benzema could win the Ballon d’Or this year. In this kind of form, it is hard to argue.
Brahim, Modric start in a 4-4-2: How Real Madrid could line up against Rayo Vallecano
Real Madrid have an excellent opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the La Liga table to eight points when they travel to Estadio de Vallecas to take on Rayo Vallecano on Sunday afternoon.
Real Madrid are currently five points clear of second-placed Girona and with the Catalans not playing until Monday night, Los Blancos have a chance to stretch their advantage with a win tomorrow.
Momentum is also on the side of Carlo Ancelotti’s men after they picked up two crucial victories against Girona (La Liga) and RB Leipzig (UEFA Champions League) over the past week.
But, Rayo Vallecano, who have a new manager in place in Inigo Perez, had managed to hold Real Madrid to a goalless draw in the reverse fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu. So, the game will not be straightforward on Sunday.
Here’s how Real Madrid could line up at the Vallecas as they look to take another step towards winning the La Liga title.
Andriy Lunin has firmly established himself as the preferred choice in goal ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga. As such, the Ukrainian should again start for Real Madrid against Rayo Vallecano.
There will be one change in the defensive line that took the field against Leipzig in midweek as Fran Garcia will step into the team at left-back with Ferland Mendy out of the squad due to suspension.
Antonio Rudiger, David Alaba, and Eder Militao are still injured, which means Aurelien Tchouameni will once again have to fill in at centre-back where he will partner captain Nacho Fernandez. Meanwhile, Dani Carvajal should continue on the right side of the defence.
Tchouameni starting in defence means one can expect Eduardo Camavinga to occupy the pivot position in the middle of the park for Real Madrid.
However, there could be a notable change in midfield, with Luka Modric getting a rare start after a period of inactivity, with Toni Kroos getting a breather. Federico Valverde will occupy the other interior midfield position for the visitors.
Brahim Diaz came off with a fitness issue against RB Leipzig in midweek, but is not injured and has been named in the squad list. Given his form, the Spaniard should again start in the hole behind the two forwards in the absence of Jude Bellingham, who is injured.
Up top, there is no looking past the Brazilian dynamic duo of Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Jr, both of whom will be raring to get on the scoresheet after not scoring against Leipzig.
Joselu is certain to come onto the pitch at some point in the game to provide a different kind of threat in the attacking third. Toni Kroos should also come off the bench, especially if things are not going Real Madrid’s way.
There could also be minutes for Arda Guler, who has not seen as much action as one would have expected since returning from injury. Dani Ceballos is also an option for Ancelotti if he wishes to relieve one of his midfielders.