COMMENT By Matt Farr
Liverpool and Manchester City go head-to-head at Anfield on Saturday in a meeting that could make or break their Premier League title bids.
The Reds are second in the league, with City third, and both are attempting to keep the pace on league leaders Chelsea, who are six points clear.
Ahead of what could be a pulsating encounter between two of the league’s most potent attacking forces, who would make their best combined XI?
Manchester City ace David Silva and Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino would miss out on the best combined XI, with City team-mate Fernandinho, and the in-form Adam Lallana making the cut.
Toure began the campaign in a precarious position, with Pep Guardiola effectively exiling him from the first-teams squad after comments made by his agent.
Since his return to the team against Crystal Palace on 16 November, Toure has scored three goals in seven Premier League appearances, but his lack of action at the start of the campaign hindered his selection for the combined xi.
Fernandinho, meanwhile, has been City’s central figure in their midfield this season, contributing two goals and two assists from 22 games in all competitions.
As for Liverpool’s Lallana, the 28-year-old has been reborn under Jurgen Klopp this season, discovering a prolific goalscoring touch that has so far eluded him in his Anfield career. He now has seven goals and six assists from just 17 appearances.
His fruitful return is vastly superior to that of Man City’s David Silva, who has three goals and five assists from 21 appearances.
The goalkeeper selection was a big concern, as none of Man City or Liverpool’s keepers have been particularly strong.
Both Claudio Bravo and Loris Karius have come under heavy criticism for their mistake-ridden performances since the start of the campaign, but while Pep Guardiola continues to show faith in Bravo, Jurgen Klopp has axed Karius from the first-team.
In his place is Simon Mignolet, who makes the combined XI. Since being reinstated as Liverpool’s No.1, Mignolet has kept four clean sheets.
The back-four sees a 50-50 spread between the two sides, with Aleksandar Kolarov and Vincent Kompany from City, and Joel Matip and Nathaniel Clyne from Liverpool.
James Milner has been excellent as the Reds’ make-shift left-back, amid concerns over the performances of Alberto Moreno; but Kolarov has also done well – despite City’s defensive woes.
Kompany, meanwhile, has made just three Premier League appearances this season as he recovers from injury, but the Belgian is a top quality defender and would make any side.
Two of Liverpool’s defensive stars come in the shape of Matip and Clyne, with the former having been formidable since his arrival at Anfield in the summer. Clyne edges out the experienced Pablo Zabaleta at right-back.
Joining Fernandinho in the midfield is Ilkay Gundogan. Arguably Man City’s best signing of the summer, the Germany international has been sensational. Before a season-ending injury, Gundogan contributed five goals and two assists from 16 games.
One City and one Liverpool player feature in a three-man attacking-midfield unit alongside Lallana. Kevin De Bruyne has continued his Premier League onslaught since his move from Wolfsburg in 2015, with three goals and 12 assists from 23 appearances.
The injured Philippe Coutinho is also included, having played a starring role as Liverpool swiftly established themselves as the league’s highest goalscorers. He contributed six goals and six assists, and is set to return in the new year.
Up-front is Sergio Aguero. Divock Origi has been in fine form for Liverpool, with four goals and two assists in his last six games, but Aguero is one of the best strikers in Europe and cannot be overlooked. Before a four-game suspension, the Argentina international had 16 goals from 19 games.
A lot of goals have been scored by players in our best combined XI, and amid the ongoing defensive concerns for both sides, the meeting between the pair on Saturday is expected to have plenty of goals.
In other Liverpool news, Jurgen Klopp believes this man has reached another level in 2016.