FourFourTwo's Premier League XI
FourFourTwo recently received an email from a Mr Steve James, who proposed the Premier League and La Liga should face off in something of an all-star match, but with a catch. No club would be represented by more than one player.
This would prevent any one club from dominating their league's representative XI (yes, we mean Barcelona, obviously) and would provide a greater indication of the strength (and, indeed, depth) of the two leagues.
The thought caused much debate at FFT Towers, with punches thrown and certain individuals refered to as 'ruddy idiots'. Fortunately, the violence died down once we had all agreed on our Premier League XI. We also asked FourFourTwo.com's man in Madrid, Tim Stannard, to provide his La Liga XI, which you can see here.
In putting together a Premier League XI to battle La LigaÃ¢ÂÂs finest, FFTÃ¢ÂÂs thoughts immediately turned to stifling the opposition; as the last four years have shown, going toe-to-toe with some of the tikiest-takiest players around will only end in tears.
However, with a one player minimum from each club, I entered this project with the type of blind-optimism usually reserved for our brave Lions on the eve of international competition. Remembering we also had to adhere to the stipulation, we delayed draping our Premier League flag out the office window, and sat down to make some very difficult, and no doubt disputable calls...
Michel VormÃ¢ÂÂ¨ - Swansea City
Certainly not a household name on his arrival in the Premier League, despite already having a handful of Dutch caps and being one of the three keepers Bert Van Marwijk took to the 2010 World Cup, Vorm has endeared himself to Swans and fantasy football nuts alike. His brilliant reflexes and penalty-stopping expertise have won headlines and plaudits. Despite the season having not even reached the halfway stage, the former Utrecht gloveman has already saved a handful of points for the promoted side.
Ã¢ÂÂ¨Ã¢ÂÂ¨Luke Young - Ã¢ÂÂ¨Queens Park Rangers
Ã¢ÂÂ¨With all due respect to the former England international, his presence in this hypothetical XI is largely down to the fact that the leagueÃ¢ÂÂs best right-backs line-up alongside some lovely little creative sorts, who also feature on this list. While unspectacular, YoungÃ¢ÂÂs a solid ball-playing defender, with more than 10 years of Premier League experience behind him.
Ã¢ÂÂ¨Nemanja VidicÃ¢ÂÂ¨ - Manchester United
Ã¢ÂÂ¨It says it all about the SerbianÃ¢ÂÂs influence (and Manchester UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs displays over the last 12 months) that a defender would be the standout pick from the league champions. While his inclusion means no place for Nani or Wayne Rooney, VidicÃ¢ÂÂs solidity has held his side together, especially during times when they have been found wanting further up the pitch. His absence for the rest of the season is a massive blow for Sir Alex Ferguson, but luckily heÃ¢ÂÂs fit and raring to go for us in make-believe land.
Gary CahillÃ¢ÂÂ¨ - Bolton WanderersÃ¢ÂÂ¨
"HeÃ¢ÂÂs not as good as people think!" go the tweets, with a few expletives thrown in hither and thither. While BoltonÃ¢ÂÂs form is poor, it would be foolish to pin it solely on the England centreback, even though his performances have generally fallen below his own high standards this term. Talk has turned to rebuilding with the funds garnered from his sale in January, but he could play as crucial a part in the heart of their defence should he stay put.
Leighton BainesÃ¢ÂÂ¨ - EvertonÃ¢ÂÂ¨
Equally adept in defensive and attacking areas, Baines provides an extra threat on the left wing with his willingness to overlap and ability to cross from deep Ã¢ÂÂ not to mention his dead-ball prowess. Now EnglandÃ¢ÂÂs number two in this position, the former Wigan man has shown vast improvement since Fabio Capello decided against taking him to South Africa in 2010.
Ã¢ÂÂ¨Ramires - Ã¢ÂÂ¨ChelseaÃ¢ÂÂ¨
Last year he was branded little more than industrious, but this season has seen the Brazilian consistently put in polished displays - even demonstrating a goal-scoring aptitude many doubted he had. Everything about Ramires is relentless, and it is clear to see he is Andres Villas-BoasÃ¢ÂÂ main man in the middle of the park.
Ã¢ÂÂ¨Yohan Cabaye - Ã¢ÂÂ¨Newcastle United
Ã¢ÂÂ¨One of the seven Gallic Geordies - or 'Mark Owen', as he is referred to by his teammates because of his boyband-like good looks Ã¢ÂÂ Cabaye has been the driving force behind NewcastleÃ¢ÂÂs impressive start to the season. While classy on the ball, heÃ¢ÂÂll also provide some extra bite to the midfield.
Ã¢ÂÂ¨Luka Modric - Ã¢ÂÂ¨Tottenham Hotspur
Ã¢ÂÂ¨After early season discontent brought about by a botched move to Stamford Bridge, Modric has come back into the Spurs side and made them the title-challengers some have dared refer to them as. Undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in the league, the Croatian pips Gareth Bale to a spot in the XI, thanks in part to the choice of formation.
David Silva - Ã¢ÂÂ¨Manchester City
Ã¢ÂÂ¨The best player in the league? Almost certainly Ã¢ÂÂ a season of acclimatisation (with the odd flash of brilliance) has set him up for a second where he has become the heart-beat for a ruthless Manchester City. Looking as comfortable as he ever has done on a football pitch, the former Valencia man will know this opposition inside and out Ã¢ÂÂ as would have Juan Mata Ã¢ÂÂ but SilvaÃ¢ÂÂs greater influence (by virtue of a longer Premier League stint) gives him the edge in this one.
Luis SuarezÃ¢ÂÂ¨ - LiverpoolÃ¢ÂÂ¨
Not exactly flavour of the month right now, you can never quite take your eyes of Suarez for fear of missing something game-changing. While Liverpool struggle to get the best out of him without an accomplished striker, his energy and directness will prove a useful foil for this sideÃ¢ÂÂs front-man. Speaking of which...
Ã¢ÂÂ¨Robin van Persie - Ã¢ÂÂ¨Arsenal
Ã¢ÂÂ¨After a quite staggering run in front of goal, Van PersieÃ¢ÂÂs sumptuous volley against Everton in the last round of fixtures leaves him one goal away from equalling Thierry HenryÃ¢ÂÂs record of 34 in a calendar year (all this in what is arguably his secondary position). Aguero came close, but missed out because of SilvaÃ¢ÂÂs inclusion; RooneyÃ¢ÂÂs tendency to drop was unwelcome give the personnel behind him. Demba BaÃ¢ÂÂs 11 goals so far gave him an outside chance, but unfortunately record-breaking trumps left-field, even in footballing Narnia.