Chelsea renew their epic rivalry with Manchester United when the two Premier League giants clash at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and the world will be watching as two of English football’s biggest spenders go head-to-head for the first time this season.
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The two sides have a multitude of talents available at every position, but who would make the cut for a combined Blues-Red Devils XI?
The Statesman has compiled the best 11 players from the West London and the Red half of Manchester in a 4-4-2 formation for you:
Goalkeeper: David de Gea (Manchester United)
Considering the fact that de Gea is the best goalkeeper in the English top-flight and perhaps even the world, this was a no-brainer.
Thibaut Courtois is a good goalkeeper, but is he truly world-class?
The Belgian continues to make silly errors from time to time and that counts against him.
Most football fans would agree that United’s custodian is on a different level than all the keepers in the Premier League and while this is not to disparage Courtois, he just can’t be picked over de Gea.
Left-Back: Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)
Marcos Alonso took the Premier League by storm last season with his barnstorming displays as Chelsea’s left wing-back in their 3-4-3 system. A flat back-four doesn’t exactly suit his skill set, but the Spaniard is still better than the competition.
Luke Shaw, technically United’s first-choice left-back, is yet to fully recover from his injury nightmare while Matteo Darmian hasn’t quite impressed since his arrival from Italy.
Daley Blind does an admirable job filling in but his lack of pace is even more apparent than Alonso’s and while Jose Mourinho prefers Ashley Young in this position these days, the Englishman isn’t a proper defender.
Alonso may have his detractors, but remains a solid and consistent performer. As a bonus, his crosses on the overlap are excellent and he can take a mean free-kick.
Centre-Back: Eric Bailly (Manchester United)
Since his arrival from Villarreal last year, Bailly has steadily evolved into a mainstay at United. He’s still a bit rough around the edges, but his excellent physical attributes more than make up for it.
David Luiz may have re-learnt the defensive arts under Antonio Conte but the mercurial Brazilian is too unpredictable and it’s been a rough welcome to English football for summer signing Antonio Rudiger.
The German’s been all over the place at times and United’s Ivorian recruit makes the cut with ease as a result.
Centre-Back: Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
There’s no denying Cahill is on a downward trajectory and while he will never get the plaudits, the no-nonsense Englishman is still one of the first names on Conte’s team sheet.
The 31-year-old, in his seventh season at Chelsea, remains their best central defender despite showing signs of ageing.
Phil Jones has been impressive this season, but the injury-prone defender needs to start consistently for 30-odd games before he can be considered ahead of Cahill.
Right-Back: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Technically Azpilicueta doesn’t play on the flank anymore, but the ultra-versatile Spaniard’s best position is right-back and even he would agree.
It’s really rare to see him having a bad game, that’s how consistent he is, despite playing slightly out of position as a third centre-back in Chelsea’s three-man defence.
United veteran Antonio Valencia gave Azpilicueta a run for his money, but the Ecuadorian is a converted defender and hence, the Chelsea man has the slightest of edges over him.
Centre Midfield: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Since Kante got injured, Chelsea have conceded six goals in two UEFA Champions League games. That’s no coincidence for their energiser bunny is the backbone of their squad.
Without the diminutive Frenchman, the Blues suddenly look vulnerable and that just goes to tell you that Kante is worth his weight in gold.
Paul Pogba was in sparkling form before injury stalled his season, but the flashy midfielder is yet to match Kante in terms of sheer consistency and misses out due to his compatriot’s brilliance.
Centre Midfield: Nemanja Matic (Manchester United)
How Chelsea must be ruing their decision to let Matic go — to United of all teams.
Arguably the best midfielder in the Premier League season (along with Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City), Matic would walk into any Premier League side right now.
Tiemoue Bakayoko, his ‘replacement’ at Chelsea, is yet to impress and while Cesc Fabregas is a fine player, Matic’s graft far outweighs the Spaniard’s craft.
One of the few selections that neither set of fans would argue on as the towering Serbian is the one of the best midfield enforcers in world football at the moment.
Left Midfield: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Chelsea have been missing their star man, who was injured at the start of the season and their title defence has suffered majorly as a result.
Again, a player whose true value showed when he wasn’t available for selection. Without the tricky Belgian, Chelsea’s attack lacked that precision that is required to break open stubborn defences.
Along with Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal, Hazard is probably the best winger in the Premier League and United’s wide men don’t come close to challenging the Chelsea man.
Right Midfield: Anthony Martial (Manchester United)
Technically more of a forward than a winger and most certainly not a midfielder in the truest sense of the word, Martial’s talent is impossible to ignore and hence he starts on the right side of our four-man midfield.
The 21-year-old, who loves scoring in big games, has started to sparkle again this season after an underwhelming campaign last time and while he prefers to cut in from the right, one feels a player of his calibre would be dangerous on either wing.
Chelsea man Pedro has been pretty decent since his move from Barcelona, but Martial is a step above in class and deserves the nod.
Centre Forward: Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
Should Romelu Lukaku have been allowed to leave Chelsea? A question plenty of Blues fans will be asking in the years to come for the 24-year-old can only get better and better.
The hulking Belgian has hit the ground running, with 10 goals (all competitions) to his name already and is a fine all-round striker who can hold up play well, score with his head and foot both and in short, isn’t just about goals.
Questions over his ability to perform in big games remain but the season is long and with the quality support he gets in most matches, sooner rather than later he will start firing in crunch clashes as well.
Centre Forward: Alvaro Morata (Chelsea)
Chelsea’s replacement for Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata has quickly quelled any doubts about his quality with an impressive start to life as a Blues player.
A hamstring injury interrupted his season but the lanky Spaniard has recovered quickly and will be one of the contenders for the Premier League Golden Boot this season.
Tall and graceful, Morata is not only excellent in the air, but quite capable with the ball at his feet.
The 24-year-old’s ability to use both feet is an underrated trait and with his arrival, it seems a golden era of forwards is blossoming in the Premier League.