Saturday 16 December 2017

Man City vs Barcelona combined XI: Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero are in, but who is out?

Samir Nasri doesn't make it but Lionel Messi is unquestionably in the team
Samir Nasri doesn't make it but Lionel Messi is unquestionably in the team

Tom Sheen

Manchester City host Barcelona in the last-16 of the Champions League tonight, with both teams boasting some of the best players in world football.

But which players would come out on top if you were able to bring the two sides together to form one super team?

Putting together a combined XI is always tough, but with Neymar, Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Samir Nasri battling for just three positions in this fantasy line-up, this will be especially difficult.

Despite key man Yaya Toure's absence, Manuel Pellegrini's side will be confident of a positive result at the Etihad, coming off a brilliant 5-0 win over Newcastle at the weekend.

Barcelona on the other hand saw their 11-game winning run come to an abrupt halt when they were beaten 1-0 at the Nou Camp by Malaga - hardly the best preparation for a game like this.

The two sides play vastly different formations, Manchester City 4-2-3-1 and Barcelona 3-4-3, so the best XI players - in our opinion - have been selected in a rough 4-3-3 formation...

Selection based on the following predicted line-ups:

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy; Fernando, Fernandinho; Navas, Silva, Nasri; Aguero.

Barcelona (3-4-3): Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Alba; Rakitic, Busquests, Mascherano, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar.

Here's the XI:

GK: Joe Hart

England's No 1 has undergone another mixed season under Pellegrini, but just takes this spot because Barcelona have a bit of confusion between the sticks. Claudio Bravo tends to start in the League and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in the cup competitions; whether this continues into the last-16 is not yet known.

Manchester City's Joe Hart saves a shot from Crystal Palace's Fraizer Campbell during their Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium. REUTERS/Phil Noble

RB: Pablo Zabaleta

The city right-back is easily in the top five at his position in the world. Equally capable in defence or attack, Zabaleta plays with a lot of heart and courage, making him a firm favourite among City fans. At one time Dani Alves was considered the best in the world, but the Brazilian has always been a bit of a liability defensively and, at 31, his influence as an attacker is just starting to dwindle.

Pablo Zabaleta, left, hopes James Milner stays at Manchester City

CB: Vincent Kompany

The Belgian has certainly declined from his dominant peak a couple of years ago, but he is certainly good enough to get into a Barcelona team that has used converted midfielders Jeremy Mathieu, Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets in defence at times this season.

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is full of belief

CB: Gerard Pique

Pique remains Barcelona's best defender, though he too is a shell of the player that was arguably the world's best a few years ago. The Spaniard has been in and out of the team this season but usually saves his best performances for the biggest matches.

Gerard Pique during the press conference

LB: Jordi Alba

Jordi Alba is a supreme attacking threat and is now more influential to this side than Dani Alves. Gael Clichy is good enough for City in the League but will be seen as a weak point by the visitors.

Jordi Alba

CM: Javier Mascherano

He may not be quite as good as Roy Hodgson (who voted him first in the Ballon d'Or) thinks he is, but Mascherano is still one of the very best defensive midfielders in world football. He also plays a crucial role in Luis Enrique's 3-4-3, acting as another defender when Barca are under pressure. Much better than either Fernando or Fernandinho.

Javier Mascherano of FC Barcelona competes for the ball with Sergio Canales of Real Sociedad

CM: Ivan Rakitic

If Yaya Toure were not suspended for the first game then this would be his spot but City will have to do without their most influential player for the first leg. Rakitic has been so good this year that the decline of Xavi, who will likely start from the bench, and loss of Cesc Fabregas has barely made an impact.

Ivan Rakitic: Barcelona will not be a three-man team (Generated thumbnail)

CM: Andres Iniesta

Another tough decision to include Iniesta over Samir Nasri, who has been brilliant in recent weeks. The Spanish maestro has been far from his best in this season but still has enough in the tank to be a potential match-winner.

Andres Iniesta of Barcelona

LW: David Silva

This is where it starts to get tough. Neymar is finally living up to his huge hype and has 24 goals in 30 matches already this season. The Brazilian scored 10 goals in Barca's recent 11 match winning streak, providing a brilliant foil to Lionel Messi. With Toure out, David Silva now has to become City's main creator - his performance will define the first leg. City fans will be hoping he can reproduce what he did against Newcastle.

David Silva of Manchester City

RW: Lionel Messi

Probably the easiest choice in this side, Messi is undoubtedly one of the top two players in the world. There wouldn't be many who don't select Messi in their dream team.

Barcelona's Neymar (L) celebrates his goal with teammate Lionel Messi

ST: Sergio Aguero

Last season, choosing Aguero over Luis Suarez would have been blasphemy. But the Uruguayan has really struggled at Barcelona, scoring just seven goals in 22 matches this season and generally failing to gel with his star-studded team-mates. Aguero appears to have gotten over his small slump to fire three goals in his last two matches.

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero has not scored since returning from injury

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