Man City dominate combined XI with Liverpool as Trent, Thiago, Nunez all miss out
This has been the biggest rivalry in English football for around half a decade and many expected this April meeting at the Etihad to be a title decider, but that is not the case. Man City need to win to close the gap on Premier League leaders Arsenal, while Liverpool need a positive result in their bid to finish inside the top four.
The Premier League champions unsurprisingly dominate our combined XI of the two sides ahead of Saturday’s clash…
GK: Alisson (Liverpool)
Choosing between Alisson and Ederson has been the job of the Brazil manager for the last few years, but that particular honour has fallen onto my lap here.
Alisson was Tite’s first-choice goalkeeper at last year’s World Cup and has 61 caps to his name, while Ederson has played 19 times for his country. My selection process has not come down to who is Brazil’s No. 1, however.
The Liverpool shot-stopper has always been the superior player, in my opinion, and has arguably been his side’s best player in what has been a bitterly disappointing campaign. One thing Ederson has over Alisson is the ability to play with the ball at his feet. There is no goalkeeper better than the Man City man in that department.
READ MORE: Premier League keepers ranked: Jordan Pickford breaches top five
RB: Kyle Walker (Man City)
Fittingly, this is another battle here which also takes place on the international stage. The Brazil boss only has two goalkeepers to choose from, while England manager Gareth Southgate has four top-class right-backs at his disposal, and then a lot of players very worthy of playing for their country who simply cannot get a sniff.
Only three players have more minutes for the Three Lions under Southgate than Kyle Walker – who has been favoured ahead of Kieran Trippier, Reece James – who is often unavailable through injury – and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Walker is good going forward, solid defensively and has always had a ludicrous amount of pace in his locker. His attacking and technical ability is not as strong as Alexander-Arnold, but he is significantly better at defending. His reliability, experience and defensive capabilities greatly help his case under Southgate and Pep Guardiola, and is why he gets in this team ahead of Trent.
CB: Ruben Dias (Man City)
Guardiola has the benefit of having five superb central defenders to choose from, which is what it takes to win four Premier League titles in five years.
Ruben Dias has been City’s most consistent centre-back under the Spanish manager and was named FWA Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season in 2020-21. That year was undoubtedly his best for the Citizens, but he remained consistent and very difficult to play against this and last term.
CB: Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Whether you love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Virgil van Dijk is one of the best central defenders in Premier League history. This season hasn’t been his best, admittedly, but he is 31 years old and suffered a very serious knee injury in October 2020. It is fair to cut him some slack.
The Netherlands captain’s spot in this team is a no-brainer.
READ MORE: Van Dijk nonchalance leads to extremes as arrogance confused with decline
LB: Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
Picking between Andy Robertson and Nathan Ake was the toughest choice for this whole team. The latter has been outstanding this season, playing in an unnatural position, while Robertson has not quite been at his best.
Maybe I’m biased as a Scotsman, or maybe I am blinded by the good old ‘class is permanent’ logic, but I have given the edge to Robertson – who has more Premier League assists than any other defender in top-flight history.
DM: Rodri (Man City)
Fabinho has been pretty pants this season, unfortunately for Liverpool fans. This is another no-brainer. Even if Rodri is a bit of a baby.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)
Kevin De Bruyne is the best midfielder in the Premier League, perhaps even the entire world. That is a debate for another day, I guess.
The 31-year-old Belgian only has four league goals this season but has provided an outstanding 13 assists, which is unsurprisingly more than anyone else in the top flight.
Much has been said about a potential Man Utd treble, but a Man City treble is also on the cards, and Guardiola will need this guy on form between now and the end of the season if it’s going to happen.
CM: Bernardo Silva (Man City)
Bernardo Silva has an interesting relationship with Liverpool fans. He doesn’t like them, and they don’t like him.
He didn’t applaud the opposition players when City had to give the Reds a guard of honour in 2020. He also sent this message to the Anfield faithful on Twitter after his side were knocked out of the Champions League a month later: “To all Liverpool fans that have nothing else to do than to come to a Man City player account, I’m also sorry for you but for the wrong reasons… pathetic… go celebrate your titles, or try to find a partner, drink a beer with a friend, read a book… so many options!”
Why is this relevant? It isn’t, really. It’s just funny.
Oh yeah, Bernardo is a decent footballer. Better than Thiago, Harvey Elliott, Jordan Henderson and Ilkay Gundogan, which is why he is in this combined XI.
RW: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Liverpool legend Mohamed Salah has a respectable 11 goals in 26 Premier League matches this season, though this is a far cry from his usual high standards. It has been a disappointing campaign in front of goal for the Egyptian, whose highlight of 2022-23 may well have come in this fixture at Anfield, when he capitalised on a sloppy piece of play by Joao Cancelo to score the only goal of the game.
Despite the fact he has not been his usual self, Salah is still the best right winger in the Premier League. Bukayo Saka is coming for him, though…
ST: Erling Haaland (Man City)
The 22-year-old has taken English football by the scruff of the neck since his £51million switch from Borussia Dortmund last summer, scoring an outrageous 28 goals in 26 games.
He is a doubt for this game, however. Arsenal and Liverpool fans will collectively have everything crossed, praying that he doesn’t make the squad.
READ MORE: Haaland could still break these seasonal records if he actually starts playing well for Manchester City
LW: Phil Foden (Man City)
Sadio Mane would have walked straight into this team if he was still a Liverpool player. But he isn’t, so he hasn’t.
Luis Diaz is perhaps a bit unfortunate to miss out here, but he has been injured for bloody ages.
Phil Foden has blossomed into a fine footballer who still has his best years ahead of him. The 22-year-old has 13 goals in 36 appearances across all competitions this season and gets in this combined XI ahead of the aforementioned Diaz, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo and teammates Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez – who is very much in his comfort zone playing on the right flank.
Manager: Pep Guardiola (Man City)
Jurgen Klopp and Guardiola are the two best managers in the Premier League – even if Liverpool have been rubbish this season. They have dominated English football for five years and have a rivalry indifferent to Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson’s, but one that is still fantastic and historic.
Guardiola is the best manager in the world, even if he hasn’t won the Champions League since 2011 and has all the funds in the world at his disposal. Nobody will beat him to a spot as my manager in a combined XI.
READ MORE: Rodri v Klopp: football’s two sorest losers facing off adds irresistible edge to Man City v Liverpool