Manchester City and Liverpool come to grips at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday in what could be the season-defining match of the 2021-22 Premier League campaign as Jürgen Klopp's rip-roaring Reds look to raid the blue half of Manchester and jump ahead of Pep Guardiola's City.
With Liverpool the in form side in the league and currently embarking on a 10-match winning run, there is every chance that the league's top-goalscorers could put themselves in pole position for their second league honor in the last three seasons, but City can stand up and be counted in front of the home support better than almost anyone.
A titanic clash involving arguably the top two clubs in world football at the minute with direct title implications? Strap in, world, this is what football is all about. With that in mind, 101 Great Goals takes a look at the combined XI between the two outfits.
This is arguably the most contested position across the combined XI involving Manchester City and Liverpool, as Brazilian international goalkeeping duo Alisson and Ederson are - truthfully - neck and neck in terms of overall player profile. Honestly, it's all about preference, but perhaps Alisson's shot-stopping ability puts him jsut ahead of Ederson here, despite the City keeper being far more comfortable on the ball and building from the back. Opinionsn will be divided, but Alisson only just takes it.
RB: João Cancelo
Okay, just kidding; this is also a hotly debated topic. Not because Portuguese international star João Cancelo is not probably the best right-back in the world at current, but rather because he is so good that we could have slotted him in at left-back in order to squeeze in Trent Alexander-Arnold into the combined XI. But for the sake of "accuracy," Cancelo is slotted in his natural position and with just cause. A true no-brainer for any XI across Europe, not just the Premier League.
CB: Rúben Dias
According to FBRef, Rúben Dias is perhaps the best ball-playing defender in the Premier League. When it comes to passes attempted, pass completion %, and progressive carries, he sits in at least the 97th percentile compared to all center-backs in the data base. The same can be said for the level of creativity he can exhibit from time to time, sitting in at least the 95th percentile for assists, xAssists, non-penalty xGoals & xAssists, Dias is a key facet in how Manchester City operate on a tactical level and there are few - if any - better than him.
CB: Virgil van Dijk
It is not often that a Dutchman has been tabled as the best center-back in Europe, but Virgil van Dijk certainly can stake a claim for thart nameplate ever since he arrived at Anfield from Southampton back in 2018. An absolute commanding rock in the heart of the defense, an excellent leader, calm on the ball, and an aerial dynamo, Van Dijk is one of the most competent center-backs in the world and a credit to the art of defending.
LB: Andrew Robertson
If it was not to be Cancelo here, then Andrew Robertson was the obvious choice instead. A very good two-way left-back that is plenty capable of providing in the final third while tracking back and defending in good order, Robertson has had to bat away comparisions with others across the Premier League like Kieran Tierney, Lucas Digne, and Luke Shaw, he remains one of the first names on the teamsheet under Jürgen Klopp for good reason. His 10-assists this season don't hurt, either.
See a trend forming? Perhaps we can dispense with the notion that almost every position in the XI is not decided by a single thread. The comparison and fan preference between Fabinho and Rodri is ironically similar to that of Alisson and Ederson. While Rodri is so tidy on the ball, has a bit of creativity about him and can contribute a bit more effectively in the final third, Fabinho's ability to read the game and be a true defensive-midfield shield for the Liverpool back four makes him quite possibly the unsung hero of Klopp's outfit.
CM: Bernardo Silva
Bernardo Silva is one of the best players in the Premier League, regardless of position. Though he often never gets the overt clout like Manchester City club mate Kevin De Bruyne, Silva has cemented his place as one of the most influential players in the top flight of English football. Silky on the ball, incredibly craft, and seemingly able to read three steps ahead (just like KDB), Silva is one of those special players that can truly turn a match on its head and impose his will.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne
For many, Kevin De Bruyne is the best midfielder on the planet. The Belgian creator has been at the forefront of the Premier League - and European football at large - when it comes to registering assists and being unquestionably the most influential puller of strings across the continent. This combines with his ability to find the back of the net from a multitude of ways while being one of the leaders in the Manchester City dressing room. He is truly elite and deserving of his place here.
RW: Mohammed Salah
"Mo Salah, Mo Salah...running dowwwwwn the wiiiing" is a song that has been sung countless times by the Anfield faithful and for good reason. Salah has bagged 115-goals for Liverpool in 173-appearances in the Premier League and has become one of the most feared goalscorers in England since the 2017-18 season. Though he has struggled of late with questions around his future at the club persisting, Salah remains an absolute stud in the world of football.
LW: Sadio Mané
Still high on the success of helping Senegal to their first international honor in the African Cup of Nations, Sadio Mané may be having somewhat of a down season for Liverpool this year, but his influence among the Liverpool front three also remains unquestionable. His pace and ability to influence the run of play in and around the area has so often granted the Reds countless scoring chances either through passages of play or from the penalty spot. There may have been some other candidates here, namely Phil Foden or Riyad Mahrez, so this is of course up for debate.
CF: Raheem Sterling
The temptation to list Liverpool's front three here was a real one given their overall record as an attacking triumvirate under Jürgen Klopp, but England international Raheem Sterling probably has to be included here. As stated before, Mahrez or Foden could have also been easily named here when pushed, but Sterling has always been that influential x-factor for Manchester City even if his goal tally has diminished in the last two seasons. Despite that, his ability to come up with the goods in key moments probably puts him in here.