This Sunday, Liverpool host Manchester City at Anfield in a game that has so much bearing on it; the two biggest teams in the Premier League in the last two seasons and the top two favourites for this season title face-off in a fixture that last season was not only key to the destination of the title, but was also a great advertisement of the quality in the league.
If this rivalry had been going on for nearly a century, it would be El Clasico of the Premier League – due to the quality on display and ramification on the title race. But it isn’t, and knowing the Premier League, this is a phase that may pass in a few seasons, so pardon my wild comparison.
For now, though, it’s the fixture that showcases the creme de la creme of footballers in England. So why not a joint Liverpool – Manchester City XI?
GK: Alisson Becker
This one was very tough, as it is choosing between money and love. [Ok, that’s not so hard for many, but you get what I mean]
Allison is the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment per UEFA & FIFA, but he’s not played a lot this season. In fact, he’s played only five games this season since falling injured on the opening day of the Premier League.
Ederson meanwhile has been ever-present for Manchester City. But he’s not quite performed at his best. Put it down to the Manchester City defence, which has been shambles, but still…
As the international break approaches, you bet it will be Alisson ahead of Ederson for the Brazilian national team; and maybe that explains who just about edges it at the moment.
I don’t know which one of them is money and which is love. You decide.
PS: With Ederson doubtful for City after his injury in the Champions League, Alisson could be the only one of the two in action on Sunday.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold
This one was pretty straightforward.
TAA, as he’s fondly called, is not only the better right back in this fixture, he’s also the second-best right back in the world [after Sergio Ramos, of course. *facepalm*].
Kyle Walker was once in the conversation for best right back in the Premier League, but not anymore these days. Despite the City player’s goal last weekend, which helped secure a hard-fought 2-1 win, he still plays second fiddle to the influential Alexander-Arnold.
The 21-year-old has the joint-most assists by any defender this season , and ranks second for both key passes made [3.6] and crosses made [2.6] per game.
CB: Virgil van Dijk
Van Dijk has continued where he left off last season, leading the Liverpool defence as they have soared to a six-point lead at the top of the league.
Liverpool haven’t been spotless in defence this season. If anything, they’ve been porous. The Reds have only conceded one goal less than Manchester City, and have kept only two clean sheets compared to City’s five.
But Van Dijk is head and shoulders ahead of all the centre backs in this fixture. The only man who could compare, Aymeric Laporte is, unfortunately, a long term absentee, and not even in contention here.
Fernandinho is in this XI for a number of reasons. On Sunday he’s likely to start at centre back for the Citizens anyway, he gives me the option of not having to choose between him and Fabinho, and there’s not been many other consistent centre backs for either side the season.
Like Liverpool, the Pep Guardiola’s side have also had their worries defensively. With Laporte’s injury, the Spaniard has been left with Stones and Otamendi – two players who haven’t proven to be reliable enough and have been dropped in favour of Fernandinho even when they’ve been fit.
Matip would be the obvious Liverpool option here, but he’s missed Liverpool’s last five games through a knee injury and will miss Sunday’s clash.
LB: Andrew Robertson
Another position were Manchester City haven’t quite gotten right all season. Even though Benjamin Mendy is back playing, City have still had to play Zinchenko and Angelino at left-back this season, as Pep Guardiola continues to show uncertainty.
Liverpool meanwhile have Robertson who’s been ever-reliable, full of intensity, and a major cog at both ends of the pitch.
The former Hull City defender has provided three assists so far; the joint-most by any defender. He’s also churned out some top performances. His only goal of the season so far came last weekend against Aston Villa as he led the Reds 2-1 comeback win by scoring the equaliser.
LM: Raheem Sterling
If ever there was a man to fit perfectly in a joint Liverpool – Manchester City XI. [Well, there’s James Milner too, who’s played for the two clubs]
This season, the former Liverpool winger has continued to show what an important part of Pep Guardiola’s attack he is. Sterling has scored seven times for the champions this season; the second most goals by any player on either side. He also ranks 4th in shots per game in the Premier League [3.3] and 8th in key passes per game [2.2].
Raheem Sterling is still yet to score against his former club, but if there was ever a time for him to break that duck.
At least now we don’t have to choose between love and money. With Fernandinho at centre back, his Brazilian counterpart Fabinho takes up the defensive midfield position.
The former Monaco man has been an integral member of Jurgen Klopp’s league leaders, featuring in 10 games so far. The one game he’s missed so far was last weekend against Villa. Already on four yellow cards, Klopp made the smart choice of having him sit out the match so he doesn’t risk getting a fifth yellow card which will get him a suspended from Sunday’s top of the table clash.
His control of games for Liverpool has helped Liverpool dominate a lot of matches this season. His positioning has created a great platform for Liverpool’s more attacking players to flourish.
Fabinho’s 2.5 tackles per game places him first among both Liverpool & Manchester City players, while no midfielder on either team has managed more than his a1.3 interceptions per game.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne
Most assist  and most key passes , not just among players in Liverpool & Manchester City; not just in Premier League, but in all of the top five leagues in Europe.
De Bruyne has been the embodiment of creativity for Manchester City this season and has continued to put of Player Of The Season worthy performances.
A well deserved pick, beating very easily other options like David Silva, Jordan Henderson, and Georginio Wijnaldum.
RM: Sadio Mane
After being joint topscorer in the Premier League last season, Sadio Mane has continued his great form in front of goal this season, leading the Liverpool attack with six goals.
The Senegalese has stepped up on a number of occasions this season when partner in crime Mohamed Salah has been off form or unavailable, and he hasn’t disappointed.
In the running with the brilliant Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez, Mane has proven to be just the better man this season. Right on the money!
ST: Mohamed Salah
He’s not quite had the terrific start to the season, but his influence at Liverpool can’t be downplayed.
Salah has scored five Premier League goals so far, but his average 3.7 shots per game is still the joint highest by any player on both sides, and in the Premier League.
It seems a case of the ball not falling for Salah, but his experience and class will always come to play when it matters.
He edges Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus.
ST: Sergio Aguero
There could hardly be a joint XI of any two sides without Kun Aguero.
This season, he’s tallied nine goals; the second most in the league, and he’s up there with Mohamed Salah for average shots per game [3.7].
The Argentine striker has had his minutes managed, making way for Gabriel Jesus in a number of Premier League games, but his class is never in doubt.
He’s likely to lead the lines for Manchester City on Sunday, and Pep Guardiola will hope the 31-year-old can reach double figure goals.
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