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Manchester City vs Liverpool combined XI: Who makes it into the team?

Mohamed Salah
(Image credit: Getty)

Where do you even start with a combined XI of Manchester City and Liverpool?

There are a few similarities between the two teams that make it easy to make key decisions. Both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola line up in a 4-3-3, for a start. We thought we'd choose between the more defensive-minded midfielders in each side – just to make a realistic team – and that we'd pick a more creative midfielder and a tempo-setter. Neither side have a traditional no.9, either. 

But that's where the difficult choices begin. How do we only choose two full-backs? Who do we go for up front when the managers themselves don't seem to have a definitive first choice? And can we really leave the most expensive Premier League player ever on the bench?

GK: Alisson

Alisson Becker

(Image credit: PA Media)

Starting between the sticks, we have our first of many head-scratchers. Ederson and Alisson are arguably the two standout keepers in the Premier League this season: certainly of the last few. 

Both are excellent with their feet, both have a supreme record of shot-stopping. While it can be argued that Alisson was prone to the odd mistake at one point during his Reds career, City custodian Ederson as had his shaky moments, too. There is very little between the two Brazilians.

So we're going to chicken out of making any hot takes too soon. Alisson starts for Brazil, so he starts for our combined XI. Sorry, Eddy.

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold

Best playmakers

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Another battle between countrymen, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker both battle it out for the England right-back spot. Walker is comfortably trusted ahead of Trent by Gareth Southgate… so surely we should follow the same logic?

Well, given that Alexander-Arnold's role for Liverpool is the most idiosyncratic of any individual in world football, we're going to cut him slack on that. Walker is no slouch but his England colleague is the most unique full-back, potentially, that the world has ever seen, putting up unbelievable assist numbers and reinventing what's possible for the position. 

CB: Ruben Dias

Ruben Dias, best players in the world

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The two centre-backs pick themselves: and Ruben Dias has been compared to his partner in our team for the impact that he made when he arrived in Manchester mid-lockdown.

The Portuguese has been incredible since joining City, offering the much-needed leadership missed since Vincent Kompany left and adapting to either side of the defence seamlessly. He plays exactly how Guardiola wants and has become a rock that the champions will hugely miss if he's out for too long towards the end of the season. He's an obvious pick in this team. 

CB: Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk | Liverpool v Crystal Palace live stream

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As great as Joel Matip has been for so long and as much as we like John Stones, Virgil van Dijk's peak has been touted by some as the best that any centre-back has ever reached. He's gradually returned to that insane level after injury and he's a key reason that Liverpool are mounting a title charge.

The Dutch defender is one of this era's defining footballers: it's strange to think that Manchester City were the other team competing for his signature back when he signed for Liverpool…

LB: Joao Cancelo

Joao Cancelo

(Image credit: PA Images)

Now this one is difficult. Do we go for Andrew Robertson, who's been one of the most consistent and well-rounded left-backs of the last decade? Or Joao Cancelo, who's been in scintillating form ever since his reinvention to the other flank?

Of course there will be those who disagree with this pick – but Cancelo's season has been supreme. The inverted full-back is a creative lynchpin of City, good both going forward and defending, and perhaps the best Premier League full-back to play on his opposite side since Denis Irwin. If that's not the highest compliment you can pay Cancelo, what is?

CM: Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne

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He's the first name on most teamsheets – and he gets in our team as the creative midfielder. How could he not?

Kevin De Bruyne has approached the stage in his career where he's a Premier League all-timer, alongside the Gerrards and Lampards of yesteryear. If his sheer output isn't impressive enough, the number of times he makes the difference on his own surely is – and though he's not had the season of his life this year, he's still managed goals against Liverpool and Chelsea in the title fight, not to mention another key strike in the Champions League this week against Atletico. 

Liverpool don't really have a comparable midfielder so this is an easy choice. Mentions should go to Jordan Henderson and Harvey Elliott who are both great players… but this choice was fairly straightforward. 

CM: Fabinho


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As the no.6 in our team, it's a straight fight between Fabinho and Rodri. The mononymed DMs operate in the same area of the pitch and both have their pros and cons for choosing them in our side. 

Rodri is arguably the better passer. He's been excellent this season as the backseat driver of the City midfield with stunning displays to control huge games… but Fabinho, for us, is the better player. Rodri is protected a little more by Guardiola's current iteration of using other players to help cover his defensive midfielder in a way he never quite had to with Fernandinho. He wouldn't have to with Fabinho, either.

The Brazilian is perhaps even underrated. He's been one of the outstanding midfielders in the Prem since his arrival from Monaco and actually, Liverpool's capitulation last term was as much about his move to the back as it was Van Dijk's loss. We're picking him to anchor our hypothetical midfield. 

CM: Bernardo Silva

Bernardo Silva

(Image credit: PA)

There are so many midfielders we've not even touched on who could yet make our team. Ilkay Gundogan was City's top scorer last season. Thiago has been excellent this campaign. Naby Keita, on his day, is worthy of this side, while James Milner has the experience and can perhaps slot a penalty home better than anyone in the City side. 

Thiago has been exquisite this season but Bernardo has been just a little better – and has done it for longer. The Portuguese is the perfect blend of technical excellence and an engine that never stops, putting in an unreal season considering he was linked with an exit in the summer. He'll never receive the plaudits that De Bruyne does but often, he's just as good. 

RW: Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah

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Sorry, Riyad Mahrez. There's only one right-winger for this fictional side.

Mohamed Salah may have gone off the boil a little in the last couple of weeks but if anything, that'll only scare Manchester City more this weekend. The Egyptian King has had another vintage season at Anfield, leading not just with goals but with individual brilliance that has left fans flabbergasted. 

Shoutout to Gabriel Jesus, too, whose reinvention as a right-winger has been great this season. But this place in the team has to go to Salah, as the Premier League player of the season.

ST: Diogo Jota

Diogo Jota

(Image credit: PA)

Well, at least Manchester City's lack of a striker makes one choice in this team a little easier. 

Choosing a no.9 for our combined XI, we can consider Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Jesus, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish or even Gundogan. But as the best option at centre-forward that you'd pick from the lot, Diogo Jota has to edge it. The Portuguese has the pressing ability, the link-up play, of course the finishing and curiously, the aerial threat, too. Ask us on a different day, however, and it could be just about anyone else. 

LW: Phil Foden

Phil Foden

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Sadio Mane has arguably been the Premier League's best left-winger since he moved there with the arrival of Salah on the right. City have last season's outstanding individual talent, Grealish – even if he hasn't quite delivered the same level of brilliance this term.

But Foden takes our final place in the combined XI simply for his game-changing ability in big moments. The assist against Atletico midweek was a case-in-point, as was his goal at Anfield earlier on this season. The Stockport Iniesta has done impressions of Gazza, Messi and Aguero since coming into Guardiola's first-team plans and it's crazy to think he's not yet at what he might become. 

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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. Over his time on the brand, he has interviewed the likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Jack Wilshere, written pieces ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career, and has been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals, working for FFT