When Manchester City host Barcelona at the Etihad tonight in their Last-16 Champions League clash, there will be a lot of talent on show. Enough talent that, if given enough money, and doing away with Financial Fair Play, you could probably create the best team in the world.
If you were able to pick a combined XI made up of the stars from both teams, who would make the cut? it would be a tough call to leave out any of the players, but there are obviously certain names that put themselves on the team sheet.
However, this super XI will be missing one star, as it will be based on the players that are available for selection for tonight's game, so Man City’s Yaya Toure will not be included as he is serving the last game of his suspension after being sent off in the group stages against CSKA Moscow.
Between the sticks
The goalkeeper seems a logical place to start, and Joe Hart wins this battle straight away. The England number one has had his moments between the sticks for City, but he just pips Barca’s Claudio Bravo to post this time.
Another reason is that you can never be sure who is actually going to play in goal for Barca as they often switch between Bravo and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. So just for consistency, Hart gets the nod.
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The back four
It’s probably a good time to say that this team will be playing 4-3-3, to accommodate such talented players even though neither City or Barca play that system with them usually adopting a 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 respectively.
Anyway, at right back we find Pablo Zabaleta. The City defender is chosen ahead of Barca’s Dani Alves purely because he is the more complete full back. Both can attack well, although Zabaleta probably has more influence going forward than Alves does these days, but it is defensively that Zabaleta comes out ahead of Alves.
The Brazilian right-back can be a bit of a liability at times when he just bombs forward and forgets his defensive duties. You don’t get that with the City defender, he is reliable at the back.
Jordi Alba takes his place at left back ahead of Gael Clichy for many of the same reasons that Zabaleta beat Alves. Alba is much better going forward than Clichy and is the better defender, case closed really.
The centre-back pairing was a tough choice but it is Vincent Kompany and Javier Mascherano that will play alongside each other in this team. Kompany, the leader of Manchester City, is one of the best defenders in the Premier League and his strength and power is vital for City.
Mascherano who has adopted the role of centre back since joining Barcelona, although hasn’t played their as much this season, gets the nod over Gerard Pique. Mascherano is the better of the two on the ball and is a more ferocious defender and a pairing of him and Kompany would be pretty safe.
The midfield three will be made up of Ivan Rakitic, Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Xavi would be replaced with Yaya Toure but obviously he is suspended. However, it wouldn’t be easy to push Xavi out of the side because he is still a world class performer and his eye for a pass is second to none.
Rakitic provides protection to the back four and is so good on the ball that he can start attacks and create chances for the front three. He is picked over the likes of Fernando and Fernandinho because he is the better player technically out of the three.
Iniesta is one of the first names on the team sheet and there is no real competition from Man City for his place. Samir Nasri maybe? not on my watch. The little Spaniard is so influential for Barca and can prove simply impossible to dispossess at times.
The front three
The front three was a tough one to pick with several players going for just three places. Sergio Aguero, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and David Silva could all be chosen, but it is an attack of Messi, Aguero and Silva that will line up in this side.
Silva and Messi would start on the left and right of the three and obviously be interchangeable as they so often are for their clubs. They have the ability to cut inside and cause teams problems running into the box or shooting from range.
They can both pick passes that most other forwards can only dream of, supremely talented and two of the first names on the team sheet without doubt. If a manager had those two players at his disposal, the rest of the team would have to be made to suit them.
Then at the focal point of the attack there would be Sergio Aguero. The Argentinian hitman is one of the most dangerous strikers in the world and with the likes of Silva, Messi, Xavi and Iniesta creating chances for him, he could score an endless amount of goals.
He gets the nod over Suarez just because the Uruguayan hasn’t scored many this season, obviously he has contributed in other ways, but there is enough players in this team to provide assists.
Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Iniesta, Rakitic; Messi, Silva, Aguero.
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