The curtain is ready to come down on a crazy 2022/23 season with Manchester City and Inter facing off in the Champions League final in Istanbul on Saturday evening.
In what we think is the biggest mismatch in Champions League final history, here is a combined XI, which is obviously dominated by Pep Guardiola’s men.
GK: Ederson (Manchester City)
Let’s get the City dominance up and running with the goalkeeper. This is one of the closer battles but still an easy decision.
Inter shot-stopper Andre Onana has been great for the Italians this season, keeping an impressive eight clean sheets in this season’s Champions League. Despite that, Ederson is comfortably the better goalkeeper and is our No. 1 here.
RB: Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
This one was between Walker and Denzel Dumfries. Once again, the Inter representative is a very good player, but simply not on the same level as his opposing number.
Walker is the best right-back in the Premier League. Hell, he is probably the best right-back in Premier League history. The England man has shut down several world-class wingers over the last year but he is probably going to have to deal with flying wing-backs in Istanbul.
CB: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Dias did not get the praise he deserved for his season until it was near its conclusion, which is a bit strange. Anyhow, he had a monstrous campaign and played a huge part in City’s domestic double.
There is not a lot that can be said about the big Portuguese that has not been said already. He is quite good at good football. Does that suffice? Is that good analysis and solid reasoning? Not really. Probably better than BT Sport, mind.
CB: John Stones (Manchester City)
Having compared the City squad to Inter’s, it has to be said the Serie A side are stronger than initially thought. Alessandro Bastoni and Milan Skriniar are two fantastic players, but unfortunately for them, so are Dias and Stones, who partner each other here and probably will on Saturday night (with Stones having license to step into midfield), barring a characteristic Pep Guardiola overthinking on a big European night disasterclass.
Stones has established himself as one of the best central defenders in Europe over the course of 22/23 and it might be time to start needlessly throwing the ‘world-class’ tag at him.
LB: Nathan Ake (Manchester City)
Left-back was a position Inter could have stolen in this combined XI. Unfortunately for them, it is one of their weaker positions. Bastoni could fill in here, but he doesn’t make the cut, not even as a sympathy inclusion.
Ake was being pursued by his former club Chelsea last summer and if he did return to Stamford Bridge, his reputation would not have taken the shot in the arm it received having stayed in Manchester. The Dutch defender has thrived in a left-back role under Guardiola this term. The fact he is what Pep calls a “proper defender” has helped City become an absolute juggernaut defensively, which is not something we usually associate with a Guardiola team – not a slight on that aspect of his coaching, but an emphasis on how incredible his sides are in possession.
DM: Rodri (Manchester City)
On that note, the City team is actually full of physical monsters, which is why they are so effective. Obviously, every player is ridiculously gifted, but Guardiola has built a team of fantastic footballers that can hold their own in a fight. Rodri epitomises that. He is bloody massive, yet he is not a stiff defensive midfielder by any means. He is extremely gifted technically but also a bit of a sh*thouse. Those are the best players.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
Gundogan has really made a lot of people sit up and say, ‘Sh*t, this guy is actually unbelievable’ over the last 12 months or so. There have never been any doubts over his ability, but my god, he has been fantastic this season, hasn’t he?
That opening goal in the FA Cup final was just silly. If he stays at City beyond the summer, Guardiola will be absolutely buzzing. But if anyone lands him on a free, they have done very well. It seems to be between Barcelona, Arsenal and the Citizens with Gundogan’s contract expiring later this month. Whatever happens, that man is getting paid.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Another superb Inter player misses out here with Nicolo Barella only making the bench. It is a bloody shame, but he simply cannot get in over Gundogan and definitely not De Bruyne, even if Bruno Fernandes mistakenly made the FA Cup combined XI over the German.
AM: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
This is a bit of a formation switch, but anything is possible when Guardiola is managing a team in a Champions League final.
There were some decent options for this position. Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, and even Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Portuguese baller Silva gets in.
ST: Lautaro Martinez (Inter)
Wayhay! An Inter player! Is this a pity pick? No, it is not.
Julian Alvarez is quite unfortunate to miss out, as are Grealish, Foden, Mahrez and Mkhitaryan, who would have fought for a position on the wing if the formation was a 4-3-3.
Martinez has 102 goals in 237 appearances for Inter, with 21 of those coming in Serie A this season.
ST: Erling Haaland (Manchester City)
Picking Romelu Lukaku over Haaland was tempting, just to see the complete and utter fury, but the cojones are not present for such blasphemy.