Real Madrid vs Liverpool Our experts pick their combined XIs
They met asChampions Leagueequals in last seasons final in Paris, jostling over the biggest prize European club football has to offer, and whileLiverpooldominated, they were ultimately undone by aReal Madridsucker punch.
Three weeks ago, however, the extent of the gulf that has opened between these two clubs was laid bare as theSpanish side romped to a 5-2 victorythat represented Liverpools worst-ever European result on home soil.
With those games in mind, we wanted to ask two of our expert writers Liverpool correspondent James Pearce and Real Madrid writer Guillermo Rai to assess which players from each club would make a composite XI.
Disagree with their choices? Post your XIs in the comments.
Neither theBrazilNo 1 norThibaut Courtoiscovered themselves in glory during the first leg at Anfield, withcareless errors punished at each end. However, were talking about two of the greatest goalkeepers in the world. This is a tough one but Alisson just edges it in terms of his all-round skill set. He has come to the rescue so many times for Liverpool so far this season.
Courtois and Alisson are indeed two of the best goalkeepers in the world, but the Belgian has proved to be the more decisive in the meetings between the teams, including last years Champions League final. Courtois also won the 2022 Yashin Trophy before theWorld Cup, with Alisson second behind him.
What a career the Real academy graduate has had. Hes won the Champions League five times and is a pivotal figure for Carlo Ancelotti on that right side.Trent Alexander-Arnoldis capable of influencing games to a much greater degree going forward, but he has struggled for consistency this season.
Its one of the most difficult decisions in this XI, but if the great European nights have shown anything, it is that Caravajal shows up. He is a solid full-back in both defence and attack and even if Alexander-Arnold is the more entertaining player, Carvajal is the more reliable.
Van Dijk would be the first to admit he has fallen short of his own high standards at times this season. He recently spoke about how playing too much had taken a toll on his body. But hes still a class act. Hes still the defensive leader who organises those around him. Hes still a commanding figure.
Ancelotti, meanwhile, has described Militao as the best centre-back in the world this season and he certainly impressed in the first leg at Anfield. He punished some shoddy defending when he nodded homeLuka Modrics free kick and was defensively solid. LiverpoolsIbrahima Konateis a young defender with a big future, but in terms of the here and now, Id have to go with Militao alongside Van Dijk.
Although Van Dijks level has dropped a bit in the past two seasons, especially after the injury to his knee, the Dutchman is still one of the best in the world and has to be a starter here ahead ofAntonio Rudiger, who has struggled to adapt, or even the more successfulDavid Alaba.
Militao is Real Madrids most in-form defender this season, if not the most in-form player. The alternative pick here, Konate, is a top-level centre-back and was picked by France manager Didier Deschamps for the World Cup, but injuries are weighing him down. It is one of the clearest decisions in this combined selection.
WithFerland Mendyand David Alaba both set to miss out due to injury, this is an easy one.Eduardo CamavingaorNachocan fill in there for Real but this is an area where Liverpool have an advantage. Robertson has a wealth of European experience and recently produced one of the best displays of his career in the historic rout ofManchester United. He can provide the ammunition required to cause Real problems on home turf.
In Spain, he might be held in slightly lower esteem than some of his team-mates, but Robertson is very important to Jurgen Klopps game. There is an argument to describe him as the Reds most underrated player and, although Nacho makes a lot of sense in any position, the specialist in the left-back spot is undoubtedly the Scot.
TheFranceinternational missed the first leg due to illness but has since proved his fitness and has to make this line-up. Hes got so much talent. Jurgen Klopp certainly doesnt need to do his homework on Tchouameni. He was convinced about his qualities last summer whenhe was desperate to add him to the Liverpool squad. Instead, the player opted to join Real. What a difference he would have made.
There is a choice here between two players who look completely different despite occupying more or less the same position. Fabinho is perhaps more tactically intelligent, while Tchouameni offers greater options and has huge potential. However, of late, the Brazilian midfielder has been performing at a higher level than the Frenchman, who seems to have been weighed down by the World Cup and a lack of rest.
The veteran Croatian was applauded off the field when he was substituted late on at Anfield and rightly so. At the age of 37, hes still elite. As Real took control after that early burst from Liverpool, Modric pulled the strings. Its his balance, his vision, his eye for a pass. It was an education for Liverpool teenagerStefan Bajcetic.
Its an unfair comparison because Bajcetic has started with a bang, but it has to be made. Modric is still going strong two decades later and has not given up. For a match like the one at the Bernabeu, its hard not to bet on the experience and magic the Croatian can bring.
Its impossible to make a compelling case that Liverpool should have a representative in this midfield. Its been a problem area all season, with senior figures inconsistent and youngsters still learning their trade. Last seasons Fabinho would certainly have been part of the conversation, but not now. Ive gone for the youthful exuberance of Camavinga ahead of the experience ofToni Kroos. The France international was outstanding at Anfield.
Both Kroos andJordan Hendersonare considered legends at their clubs, but the German has an unparalleled track record (not everyone can lift a World Cup and five Champions League titles in their career) and, to this day, he remains Madrids orchestra conductor. Much of the rhythm of the match will depend on him.
This one is a no-brainer: the Brazil international has developed into one of the most potent attackers in world football. He got the winner in last seasons Champions League final against Liverpool in Paris and he tormented Klopps side again in the first leg at Anfield. Hes so direct and lethal. He spearheaded Reals fightback from 2-0 down and caused many problems.
The rise of Vinicius Junior and how Ancelotti brought his Real career to life
In each of the last three meetings with Liverpool, Vinicius Jr has been Madrids decisive player. But for the second leg, he also represents more of an attacking threat thanDarwin Nunez. At least, thats what the stats say: 19 goals and nine assists for Vinicius this season to 14 and four for the most expensive signing in the Reds history.
Liverpool strikers Darwin Nunez andCody Gakpomay have greater athleticism, but you cant leave out Benzema. At the age of 35, hes still delivering at the highest level. Just look at the composure and the quality he showed to tuck away his second of the night in the first leg at Anfield after exceptional work from Modric. He may not be scoring at the same prolific rate this season and hes had some injury issues, but he still has 18 goals to his name.
The Frenchman might not be at his best physically, but after a first leg in which he scored two goals and provided an assist, it would be foolish to doubt Benzema. Last year, he led Ancelottis team to their 14th European Cup and won the Ballon dOr. For players like Gakpo, that kind of achievement is still a dream.
Its got to be Salah on the right of the front three. In the first leg, he set up the opener for Nunez and then scored the second himself, punishing Courtois howler to become Liverpools highest-ever goalscorer in Europe (42). In the group stage, he scored the fastest hat-trick in Champions League history againstRangers. He relishes this stage; it brings out the best in him. And for all the discussion about his form this season, 22 goals in all competitions is hardly a poor return.
Agreed a clear final choice for this mixed XI.Federico ValverdeorRodrygomight be the two closest candidates to compete, but Salah is Liverpools leader and it is impossible to look beyond him.
(Top photo: Mohamed Salah, Vinicius Jr, Virgil van Dijk and Luka Modric; all Getty Images)
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