Liverpool vs Man City combined XI: Van Dijk and Dias are in but who gets the nod in goal?
Manchester City broke an 18-year hoodoo last season with their first win at Anfield since 2003, as they thumped Liverpool 4-1.
The City-Liverpool rivalry has dominated English football over the past five years, intensifying as the two sides vied for the title over the past three and, although early in the season, this weekend’s clash could prove to be an early decider.
But the Citizens need to repeat last season’s dominant result in front of a full and raucous Anfield Kop this time round.
Jurgen Klopp (left) and Pep Guardiola’s (right) sides prepare to battle for the title once again
Anfield lacked its infamous atmosphere the last time the sides met but will be full on Sunday
Not only will Pep Guardiola’s team be heading to a different Anfield but they will also be facing a fresh Liverpool side. The Reds’ title defence was decimated by a injury crisis that unrelentingly hit the backline in particular.
But this season found Jurgen Klopp’s ranks bolstered with the return of defensive trio Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, who will be looking to enact revenge for the embarrassment Liverpool suffered at the hands of City last season.
Here, Sportsmail takes a look at a combined XI between rivals Liverpool and City, and with the wealth of talent on show some tough calls had to be made, ahead of Sunday’s crunch showdown at Anfield.
Manchester City were victorious over Liverpool at Anfield las season, thumping them 4-1
City had scraped just one point in Guardiola’s four league visits before the win last season
Ederson (Manchester City)
The No 1 spot in this combined XI is perhaps the toughest pick as either Alisson or Ederson could walk into any Premier League side but this one comes down to the wire.
Alisson has been an exceptional part of Liverpool’s defence since his arrival at Anfield in 2018 and has been pivotal in the Reds’ Champions League and title success.
But Ederson just edges in over his compatriot. The City goalkeeper has kept one more clean sheet than Alisson with five and has conceded just once so far this season to help Pep Guardiola’s side sit one point behind table-topping Liverpool.
Ederson has clearly been helped by those in front of him but he undeniably impresses with his reliable shot-stopping and distribution with the ball, something that Guardiola desperately wants from his No 1.
While being a reliable presence in goal, Ederson’s ability on the ball is vital to City’s success
Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Both Kyle Walker and Trent Alexander-Arnold are exceptional right-backs and have established themselves as the two of the best in the league, if not the world.
Walker’s distribution for City going forward and Alexander-Arnold’s formidable crosses and penchant for arriving on the edge of the box to pull the trigger made this one yet another tough call.
But Alexander-Arnold has been ruled out of the early title race clash with a muscle issue. It is his absence that ultimately gives Walker the nod.
But the City star’s defensive strengths may have edged him ahead of Alexander-Arnold anyway. The Red can be prone to sloppy errors and poor positioning at times.
He has undoubtedly revolutionised the full-back role alongside Andrew Robertson but it is his lack of excellence in the traditional aspects of the position that would see him miss out to Walker.
Kyle Walker’s distribution going forward and his defensive strengths makes him an asset
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
The Anfield colossus breezes into this team. After making a hugely anticipated return from injury this season he is an undoubted feature in Jurgen Klopp’s side and ours.
Van Dijk can be majestic in his performances and has brought back a much-needed solidity to Liverpool’s backline and the team in general, which has been key to their success since his arrival.
The Dutchman’s presence at the heart of Klopp’s defence has earned Liverpool four clean sheets from six and he will be looking to keep the champions off the scoresheet.
The strength of Liverpool’s backbone, Anfield is guaranteed to be a fortress with him on the pitch.
Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
With Van Dijk a certain pick, that leaves Joel Matip, Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte battling for the final centre-back spot.
But ultimately last season’s Premier League player of the season Ruben Dias easily slots into the combined XI’s backline.
The Portuguese star has had an incredible impact at the Etihad Stadium since arriving from Benfica, bringing a much-needed leadership and defence-first approach, which has earned him comparisons to City cult icon Vincent Kompany.
The 24-year-old has already had a similar impact to Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool, and he will marshall the City backline for a long time.
Anfield is guaranteed to be a fortress with defender Virgil van Dijk (right) on the pitch
Last season’s Premier League player of the season Ruben Dias easily slots into the side
Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
Andrew Robertson’s attacking drive provides the Reds boss with an option both defensively and going forward.
Game after game he brings his relentless work-rate and aggressive counter attacking for Liverpool, meaning he remains one of Liverpool’s main creative forces, racking up seven assists for Liverpool last season.
But he is also ruthless defensively with a 100 per cent tackle success rate so far this season.
The biggest danger for the Scot last season was burnout, having played all 38 of Liverpool’s league games. But he has only featured in three so far this campaign, deputised excellently by Kostas Tsimikas.
The 27-year-old is set to be fresh and on form to lead the charge against Guardiola’s ranks on Sunday.
Andrew Robertson’s dramatic rise from Queens Park to Liverpool is a football fairytale
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Kevin de Bruyne has been one of the greatest midfielders in Europe since his arrival to Manchester City in 2015.
His City trophy list is sensational, claiming three Premier League titles, one FA Cup and an incredible five League Cups.
There are very few players who possess the passing threat that he has in the final third.
The Belgian may have had an evening to forget against PSG in their Champions League clash on Tuesday but he will surely be looking to bounce back with an excelling performance against potential title rivals Liverpool on Sunday.
Kevin de Bruyne will be looking to bounce back from a forgettable performance against PSG
Fabinho has proved to be an inspired signing. The holding midfielder was a key cog in the ruthless winning machine that romped to top-flight glory in 2020.
Last season the Brazilian was forced to step in as an emergency centre back to fill in for an injury crisis which decimated their hopes of retaining the trophy.
Despite performing ably as the last line of defence, he has returned with glory to his favoured No 6 role, as the anchor-man.
From here, he can snap into tackles superbly, spark many a counter-attack and provide some serious bite when the going gets tough.
His adeptness and grit see him fend off his own captain Jordan Henderson and City’s Rodri for a spot in our midfield.
As Liverpool’s anchor-man, Fabinho (left) has been a pivotal cog in the Reds’ recent success
Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
Perhaps an unexpected pick after his howler of a miss to go level against PSG this week, Bernardo still slips into the combined XI.
The deflated performance in Paris will undoubtedly lead to the playmaker rallying ahead of this weekend, determined to redeem himself.
He demonstrated a mesh of tenacity, intelligence, anticipation and tactical efficiency in City’s 1-0 crunch win over Chelsea, which will be vital if Guardiola hopes to eke out a victory at Anfield this weekend.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s Egyptian King still firmly has his crown atop his head.
Rumours of a summer exit and difficult contract talks with Liverpool led to a supposed dip in form last season – if 22 league goals can be classed as a dip.
However, he appears to be back on firing form as Liverpool look to regain the Premier League crown.
In typical Salah fashion, he bagged his first goal of the season in Liverpool’s opener at Carrow Road and hasn’t stopped firing since. He has a total of five goals and two assists to his name in six league appearances so far this season.
His moments of brilliance and relentless consistency mean the forward, without a doubt, makes the team.
Mohamed Salah bagged his first goal of the season in Liverpool’s season opener at Norwich
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
As Manchester City’s player of the month, Jesus was one member of Guardiola’s side who was guaranteed to feature in this combined XI.
His run of fine form has seen him score three goals, including the winner in a crucial clash against Chelsea, as well as contributing three assists in just eight appearances.
His attacking displays this term have stemmed from his transition to the right wing but he has previously impressed for City as a striker and can easily resume the position.
With Salah occupying our right wing, it is only logical for Jesus to slip back into the centre forward role to better utilise his attacking prowess.
Gabriel Jesus (centre) has scored three goals so far, including the winner against Chelsea
Diogo Jota (Liverpool)
Under Klopp, Liverpool have established an infamously tenacious front three but with Diogo Jota in tow the Reds have developed the latest incarnation of a Kop ‘fab four’.
Jota has been a revelation since joining the Reds and marked his first year at Anfield with 16 goals in 37 appearances, only adding to the fatal attacking threat Liverpool posses.
He has even brought a new attacking dimension to the Reds, following in the footsteps of John Toshack and John Aldridge. He may only stand at 5ft 10 but Jota has become a pint-sized aerial menace.
His goal-scoring form has established him as a key player in Klopp’s squad, competing with a previous guaranteed starter, Roberto Firmino.
Sportsmail’s combined Liverpool-City XI ahead of their blockbuster cash this weekend