COMMENT By Harvey Byrne
Everton and Southampton are preparing to square up in the Premier League on Monday 2 January, but who makes their combined XI?
Toffees duo Leighton Baines and Ashley Williams are notable omissions from the side’s back four, with Saints defenders Ryan Bertrand and Jose Fonte taking their place.
Baines has been a fantastic servant for the Merseysiders since making the £5million switch from Wigan in 2007.
However, with age now catching up on him his displays are suffering and he will miss out to a player who has also overtaken in him in the England ranks.
Meanwhile, Williams, who joined in a £12million deal in the summer from Swansea will also miss out on the eleven through no fault of his own.
Euro 2016 winner Fonte continues to perform his role at a high standard in Claude Puel’s defence and just makes the team ahead of the Wales international.
Here is the rest of our best combined XI:
Fraser Forster has struggled between the sticks for the Saints this season, but the England number two has still shown more quality than either of Maarten Stekelenburg and Joel Robles.
The defence will then be made up of Fonte and Bertrand alongside Virgil van Dijk and Seamus Coleman.
The Republic of Ireland international has also been a good servant for the Toffees during his eight-year stay at the club, while van Dijk has emerged as one of the best defenders in the Premier League and has also been heavily reported to rejoin Ronald Koeman at Everton.
The two central midfielder players will be Oriol Romeu and Idrissa Gana Gueye with both proving solid shields for their back four.
The 25-year-old Spaniard has filled the boots of the departing Victor Wanyama in excellent fashion this season, while Gueye has proved to be a solid acquisition in his first 20 matches.
The attacking midfield three then sees a trio of players who have all shown flashes of brilliance, but have struggled to hit consists form.
Attacking midfielder Ross Barkley has come in for some criticism this campaign, but the Southampton team also lack anyone of any note in the centre of the attack.
Meanwhile, Saints summer record signing Sofiane Boufal is still adapting to life in England with Dusan Tadic producing chances to a misfiring south coast forward line.
Belgium international Romelu Lukaku is the standout forward from the two sides with Southampton scoring just 19 league goals from their 19 fixtures.
The 23-year-old has managed to score over half of the Saints’ goal tally in the English top flight with 10 strikes from his 18 matches.
Overall, it’s largely a Southampton core, with seven players currently in the team from the south coast side.
However, the result could prove quite the opposite on Monday with Everton sat higher in the league in seventh to the Saints’ ninth.
Additionally, the Toffees have home advantage for the clash and Koeman will personally want to avenge the 1-0 defeat suffered earlier in the campaign at St Mary’s.
In other Everton news, the Toffees have been dealt a major blow in their pursuit of international midfielder.