This week marks the return of the Champions League, with some mouth-watering ties helping to kick off the knockout stages of the competition. None whet the appetite more than the meeting of two pre-tournament favourites in Real Madrid and PSG, one of whom will be eliminated at the second hurdle.
Both teams boast stars aplenty, with vast Champions League experience on both sides, particularly from Real Madrid who have won the competition in three of the last four seasons. Ahead of what is set to be blockbuster affair, take a look at our combined XI featuring the best that both team have to offer.
GK: Keylor Navas
Perhaps the weakest area of all to choose from, Keylor Navas gets the nod between the sticks for his successful body of work and longevity at Real Madrid. Navas has been a feature of the Madrid side since ousting Iker Casillas for the no.1 shirt, though speculation surrounding his future in the role continues.
RB: Dani Alves
Possessing great energy up and down the right flank, Dani Alves, even at the age of 34, is arguably still the best right-back in world football. Much of his good work is done in the final third of the pitch, being very much the archetypal, modern-day full-back but is solid defensively and provides a wealth of experience to this PSG team. A certain for this team at right-back.
CB: Raphael Varane
A toss-up between both he and Thiago Silva, Raphael Varane edges his way into this team thanks to his excellent displays during Real’s recent Champions League runs. Still only 24-years-old, Varane still has his best years to come playing for Madrid, having every chance to become the best in the world at his position.
CB: Sergio Ramos
Still arguably the best centre-back in world football, Sergio Ramos is the cynical leader Real Madrid rely upon to be at their very best. Though he - like many others in the Madrid team - has underperformed by his elite standards this season, the Spanish international remains a colossal figure for Madrid who would almost certainly be worse off without him.
Like Brazilian compatriot Dani Alves on the opposite flank, Marcelo is a bundle of energy and a real nuisance for opponents with his relentless attacking of the wing. Layvin Kurzawa has made real strides for PSG this season and is unfortunate to miss out, with the experience of Marcelo earning him his place in the team.
DM: Adrien Rabiot
Both Casemiro and Marco Verratti have more than enough ability to slot into this team, but ball-playing French international Adrien Rabiot gets the nod in the holding role. Technically gifted and composed on the ball, Rabiot’s style would fit nicely alongside his two midfield partners and he continues to impress under Unai Emery.
CM: Luka Modric
One half of Real Madrid’s outstanding midfield partnership, Luka Modric remains one of the world’s best in his position and was one of the most influential players in their recent Champions League success. Comfortable to take the ball anywhere on the pitch, it is a forward’s dream to play ahead of a player with the creativity of the Croat.
CM: Toni Kroos
The second half of the aforementioned partnership, Toni Kroos’ relaxed, composed play compliments Modric perfectly in Zidane’s system. The 28-year-old has a pinpoint range of passing, mixing a strong variety of short and long balls to make him one of the most difficult midfield players to combat in the world.
RW: Kylian Mbappe
Arguably the most valuable player in world football given his age, ability and potential, Kylian Mbappe is well on his way to becoming a superstar in world football after making a fast start to life with PSG. Already bagging 15 goals this season, the teenager has a bright future ahead of himself in the game and can achieve whatever he wants, thanks much to his electric pace and high IQ.
ST: Cristiano Ronaldo
A Ballon D’Or winner as recently as a month ago, Cristiano Ronaldo has had his critics this season but remains one of the top-two players in the world. Lionel Messi may well be winning the current battle between the two, but that doesn’t mean Ronaldo - who scored 9 goals in 6 Champions League group games - will lose his place in this combined XI.
The heir apparent to the throne of being the best player in the world, the world’s most expensive player is averaging a goal a game for PSG in all competitions this season. 2018 promises to be huge for Neymar, with the World Cup coming with Brazil and he will be integral to any success PSG hope to have in European competition this season.