Bayern Munich travel to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday for a titanic UEFA Champions League fixture. While on paper it may be just a group-stage game, the world will be watching with bated breath how the clash pans out.
Bayern Munich, one of Europe’s traditional powerhouses, are up against the upstarts from the French capital and with both sides boasting several world-class players, the clash at the Parc des Princes couldn’t come sooner for football fans.
But, who would make the cut in a combined team of the two giants? The Statesman has picked the best XI in a 4-3-3 formation below:
Goalkeeper: Alphonse Areola
Had Manuel Neuer not been missing for half the season, the Bayern captain and custodian would have been a sure-shot starter. As things stand, however, the 31-year-old is out of action till January with a fractured foot and Les Parisiens’ Academy graduate makes the cut.
The 24-year-old shot-stopper, who has an impressive 6’5 frame, has been quietly been going about his job since pushing Kevin Trapp from the starting XI last season. Areola may not have the star power his teammates possess, but has been a calm presence at the back for the most part of his young career.
Left Back: David Alaba
Recovering from an ankle injury and hence, probably not fit to feature in Wednesday’s clash, Alaba is arguably the finest left-back in the world and more.
More because the versatile Austrian can play anywhere on the pitch, from centre-back to left-wing to central midfield with ease.
However, his best position probably would be left-back and the 25-year-old easily beats off competition from PSG fullback Layvin Kurzawa to slot into this combined XI.
Centre-Back: Thiago Silva
At 33, Thiago Silva may not have the legs he once had, but the Brazilian defender is still world-class and has forged a steely defensive partnership with his compatriot Marquinhos at Paris Saint-Germain.
Standing at 6 feet tall, Silva’s relative lack of physical presence is compensated by his aggressiveness and his excellent tactical acumen.
Jerome Boateng was a contender for this spot but the burly German is simply not in Silva’s league and the Brazilian, who is a genuine threat from set-pieces, makes the cut.
Centre-Back: Mats Hummels
Bayern’s rock at the back, the left-footed Hummels is widely regarded as one of the finest central defenders on the planet.
Since his move from Borussia Dortmund in 2016, the unflappable German has churned out consistent performances and is widely regarded as Germany and Bayern’s defensive leader, no small feat considering the immense talent the sides possess.
Silva’s understudy at Brazil and PSG, Marquinhos, is developing into a fine defender but for the moment the 28-year-old Hummels has clear edge over the talented Brazilian.
As a bonus, the 6’3 centre-back is difficult to mark on set-pieces for his sheer physical strength and aerial presence make him a key player on both ends of the pitch.
Right-Back: Dani Alves
Barcelona, Juventus and now Paris. Dani Alves’ passport may say the Brazilian is 34, but the fleet-footed defender makes a mockery of his age as he continues to leave his mark wherever he goes in Europe.
Motoring up and down the right flank like nobody’s business, the livewire Alves is too good for Bayern defender Joshua Kimmich, who is a fine talent no doubt, but not quite at Alves’ level.
Had Philip Lahm not retired at the close of last season, perhaps this contest would have been more intriguing but as things stands, Alves is a no-brainer for the right-back slot.
Left Midfield: Thiago Alcantara
Barcelona fans till date rue Thiago’s departure to Bayern, such is the high regard the Spaniard is held in Catalonia.
In Munich, Thiago may not have transformed into the word-beater Die Bayern fans had hoped (not helped by a spate of injuries in his first two seasons) but the 26-year-old still has plenty of football to play and when on song, is a joy to watch.
Adrien Rabiot plays this position for PSG but the young Frenchman has only just established himself into the Les Parisiens starting XI. And the 22-year-old will need more time before he can be expected to challenge the likes of Thiago.
Centre Midfield: Arturo Vidal
Il Guerriero (The Warrior) plays as his nickname suggest, on a knife’s edge. The 30-year-old Chilean had impressed during his four seasons with Juventus but at Bayern he’s taken it up a notch and is a serious contender to make the FIFPro World XI.
Combative without the ball and classy with it, Vidal beats off competition from PSG’s midfield general Thiago Motta.
The veteran Italian is a mainstay of PSG’s side but at 35, simply cannot keep up with Vidal’s all-action style and misses out.
Right Midfield: Marco Verratti
Not so long ago, Verratti was the crown jewel in PSG’s lineup but now with their acquisitions of offensive firepower, the Italian has seemingly been sidelined.
Still only 24, the diminutive Verratti is one of the finest midfielders in the world, for there is a reason Barcelona have been trying in vain to sign PSG’s pocket dynamo for the past two seasons.
Bayern made two signings in the summer to replace the now-retired Xabi Alonso (Sebastian Rudy and Corentin Tolisso), but neither have so far set the pitch alight with their performances.
In the Bavarian’s record transfer before Tolisso came in, Javi Martinez remains an excellent defensive midfielder but his case hasn’t been helped by first Pep Guardiola and later Carlo Ancelotti utilising the Spaniard at centre-back more often than not.
Left Forward: Neymar
Was this ever in doubt? The most expensive player of all time would walk into any team at the moment and while recent weeks have seen the world media focussing on his petulance, his sheer ability is undeniable.
Perhaps, had Franck Ribery been in his prime, this would have been an interesting debate. But the Brazilian, who is yet to hit his peak, is clearly the winner here.
The man, who is touted to break the Ronaldo-Messi duopoly over the Ballon d’Or, has lofty targets indeed, but the 25-year-old undoubtedly has the skill-set to achieve them.
Centre Forward: Robert Lewandowski
Edinson Cavani hasn’t done much wrong since he joined PSG from Napoli but the Uruguayan is not in the league of the man who leads Bayern’s line.
Had it not been for another Uruguayan (Luis Suarez), Lewandowski would have been considered the world’s best centre-forward.
As it stands, he is among the best. The 29-year-old Pole has improved on his goal-tally since his move from arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund to become one of the premier front-men around.
Right Forward: Kylian Mbappe
Mbappe exploded onto the scene with his barnstorming displays for Monaco last season and PSG promptly swooped in to sign the 19-year-old for a staggering fee of €180 million (to be paid next season).
Along with Cavani and Neymar, Mbappe is poised to rip up defences in Europe this season and along with his Brazilian teammate, will be a contender for the Ballon d’Or in the coming years.
Bayern winger Arjen Robben has been one of the finest exponents (and most frustrating, at times) of the position in the past decade, but at 33, Father Time is catching up with the speedy Dutchman and Mbappe gets the nod here.