The Champions League group stage is about to get underway, in which teams split into eight different groups to try and battle it out for a place in the knockout round.
Group A will see Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Galatasaray and Club Brugge clash with one another, but only two of those sides can make it through. This is one of those groups which looks fairly simple to predict, but football has a funny way of throwing curve balls.
Here’s a combined XI of all four sides, and I bet you can’t guess which two are going to dominate it…
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – The temptation to go with ex-Liverpool
Dani Carvajal (RB) – If this was a few years in the future, PSG’s Colin Dagba would probably deserve the spot, but it’s Carvajal’s to lose at the minute. Always one of Real’s most dependable players, the Spaniard rarely disappoints.
Thiago Silva (CB) – With Silva leading the side, PSG have developed into a real force to be reckoned with. He continues to perform at an elite level, and he will likely be one of the Champions League’s top performers this year.
Sergio Ramos (CB) – Ramos has been one of the world’s best defenders for years now, and he still looks to be as good as ever. With a love of scoring goals and getting sent off, you won’t want to take your eyes off Ramos.
Marcelo (LB) – Ferland Mendy is coming for his throne, but Marcelo keeps his spot for the time being. He prefers to do his defending in the attacking third, which always makes for exciting viewing.
Marco Verratti (DM) – There isn’t a team in Europe who wouldn’t want Verratti in their ranks. The diminutive Italian is phenomenal defensively, and his ability with the ball at his feet is utterly superb. He has mastered his role, and he makes PSG so much better than they already are anyway.
Luka Modric (CM) – What is there left to say about Modric? The Croatian is an incredible footballer who is capable of pulling the strings for Real with ease. There’s a reason he won the Ballon d’Or last year.
Toni Kroos (CM) – This third spot is a tough one. Galatasaray’s Younes Belhanda and Brugge’s Hans Vanaken are both solid candidates, but it’s difficult to overlook Kroos. Like Modric, Kroos is a midfield maestro, and he’s also reliable defensively. If he gets going, he’s a defender’s nightmare.
Neymar (RW) – The forward line is fairly self-explanatory. Let’s kick things off with Neymar, who is amongst the best wingers in world football, let alone Group A. The Brazilian is a magician with the ball, and he is capable of dancing around defenders with ease. If PSG are to top this group, they will need big performances from Neymar when he returns from suspension.
Kylian Mbappe (ST) – Like Neymar, Mbappe is in that upper echelon of global superstars. He can score and create goals with frightening ease, and he will certainly be expecting to finish the competition as one of the top scorers. However, keep an eye out for Falcao and Mbaye Diagne of Galatasaray and Brugge respectively, who will both ask questions of defenders this year.
Eden Hazard (LW) – The final piece in the most obvious trio in history, Hazard is also an elite talent. His frightening blend of pace, agility and dribbling makes him almost impossible to stop, and if he can continue to add goals to his game, then he will be even better. Brugge’s Krepin Diatta has the potential to be one of Group A’s best-kept secrets, but this should be all about Hazard.