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20th Nov 2015

El Clasico: Does Cristiano Ronaldo make our Real Madrid v Barcelona combined XI?

Who makes the cut?

Darragh Murphy

We toyed with the idea of keeping Cristiano Ronaldo out of our combined XI, based on current form, but then we realised that we were being absolutely ridiculous and tinkered with the formation.

Real Madrid are currently favourites to win the latest edition of the most anticipated game in league football as they are ready to punish a possibly Messi-less Barcelona side on Saturday afternoon.

The Argentine magician’s recovery is almost complete and he could feature in the second half but Barcelona will not feel obliged to rush him back as Luis Suarez and Neymar have admirably deputised in their talisman’s absence, sharing each of Barca’s last 16 goals.

While Rafa Benitez’s side are the bookies’ favourites, it’s actually Luis Enrique’s men who dominate our combined XI as we struggled to fit Cristiano Ronaldo in the attacking tornado of Messi, Neymar, Suarez.

But we managed it.

Keylor Navas

Real Sociedad de Futbol v Real Madrid CF - La Liga

There truly wasn’t any contest for our last line of defence as Keylor Navas has cemented himself as one of the best stoppers in Europe.

The Costa Rican international has conceded just three goals in his nine league appearances this season, claimed 89% of crosses into the box and has saved two penalties.

That paperwork fiasco that saw David De Gea’s move to the Bernabeu fall through is looking like less of a big deal by the day and Navas gets our shout between the sticks.

Dani Alves

FC Barcelona v Manchester City - UEFA Champions League Round of 16

Right back was a tricky decision for us as, to be fair, Dani Alves has looked past his best as of late. But even on an off day, he’s still a class above Dani Carvajal and Danilo in the battle of the Danis.

The attacking options that he gives Barcelona have made him one of the greatest full-backs of all time and his partnership with Lionel Messi on the right flank is not talked about nearly enough.

He mightn’t see the full ninety minutes but on performance, Dani Alves earns the right to line out on the right side of our back four.

Sergio Ramos

Real Madrid CF v Rayo Vallecano de Madrid - La Liga

Sergio Ramos joins Alves in one of the more temperamental defences you’re ever going to see and he’s been one of the best defenders in Europe for some time now.

The Spaniard has yet to register a defensive error this season and is not easily put under pressure.

He has a 90% pass accuracy but his selection is more based on the unquantifiable leadership that he brings to the team.

Ramos is set to play through a shoulder injury for El Clasico and it’s that kind of toughness that we want at the heart of our back four.

He’s not too shabby an aerial threat from set-pieces either and is always a danger against Barcelona, scoring three goals against his fiercest rivals.

Gerard Pique

FC Barcelona v Real Zaragoza - Liga BBVA

Who else but his international teammate to partner Ramos at centre-half?

Pique hasn’t been as regular a starter this year as he has been in season’s gone, but he has been reliable when selected by Luis Enrique and, like Ramos, has yet to register a defensive error.

He wins almost four aerial duels per game which means he is the third best centre-back in La Liga at dealing with high balls.

A natural athlete, Pique would have been good at any sport he turned his hand to and he’s always one to come up with a goal-saving challenge.

Jordi Alba

Barcelona v Real Madrid - Supercopa

We’ve found that the full-backs were the most difficult positions to pick – but Alba just about gets the nod over Marcelo at left-back.

We had Marcelo initially written down but feel that he’s far too attack-minded and could leave his fellow defenders stranded. Instead we opted for Alba who has begun finding the perfect balance of defence and attack in this, his fourth season at the Camp Nou.

In terms of team balance, it has to be Alba. He’s also less likely to do something absolutely insane.

Toni Kroos

Real Madrid v Sevilla FC - UEFA Super Cup

We had to go for two composed forces in the centre of the park as picking the likes of James Rodriguez or Isco would leave too much work for our defence.

When you see our attacking four, you’ll understand why we had to play it a little bit more conservative in the centre of midfield and Toni Kroos gets his slot as our first midfielder.

The German essentially doesn’t lose the ball, enjoying a pass accuracy of 93% this season and he is more than adept at keeping his foot on the ball to dispel any pressure on his side.

He mightn’t score many but we’re not after goals from central midfield with this system. We want our engine room to control the game and try as we might to avoid using “Kroos Control” in this article, we’ve only gone and done so.

Ivan Rakitic

FC Barcelona v AFC Ajax - UEFA Champions League

Rakitic over Iniesta, you ask. You’re damn right, we answer.

Iniesta, at 31, is not a guaranteed starter nowadays and while he may still be one of the greatest midfielders in the game, we’ve given his successor, Ivan Rakitic, a place in our XI.

The Croatian has been a revelation for Barcelona and enjoys a similar pass success percentage as Kroos.

He and his German midfield partner are tasked with the job of linking defence and attack and we’re quite content in our selection of Rakitic and Kroos at pulling that job off.

Lionel Messi

FC Barcelona v Villarreal CF - La Liga

To fit Neymar into our side, Lionel Messi had to be given a more central role but he always drifts into that position anyway so we’re confident that he can do a job for us here.

We’re salivating at the thought of Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo occupying full backs, stretching the defence and giving Messi acres of room to run into.

There’s no point in quoting stats about Lionel Messi because, in our book, he’s the best of all time and will also do well in dropping deep to collect balls from both Alba and Alves, who he has a great relationship with.

He’s not getting anywhere near a penalty but, apart from spot-kicks, there’s nothing he can’t do with the ball at his feet.

Cristiano Ronaldo

ronaldo501

On the left side of our attack, the reigning Ballon d’Or champion gets the nod and despite not being in the best form of his ludicrously impressive career, he was never really in danger of losing a place.

A lot of his shortcomings this season have come down to defences doubling up on him but with the talent in this combined XI, the imaginary side against who they are up simply won’t have the bodies to do that.

There’s nobody better at collecting the ball out on the left, cutting inside and hammering a shot to the far post, nor is he the worst from corner kicks as he seems to reach heights that most centre-halves couldn’t find with a pogo stick.

Neymar

FC Barcelona v FC BATE Borisov - UEFA Champions League

It genuinely wouldn’t surprise us to see Neymar win the Ballon d’Or this year. Since Messi’s injury, the Brazilian captain has more than picked up the responsibility and has kept the team on track atop the table.

The 23-year-old is top scorer in La Liga this season with 11 goals in the 10 games he’s played and there is definitely the argument to be made that he’s done more in the last year than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.

He’s created 36 chances and while he may not be too comfortable on the right side of attack, we couldn’t leave him out.

Luis Suarez

FC Barcelona v Villarreal CF - La Liga

Luis Suarez could well be the best finisher in world football so he heads up our team.

We forgive all his chomping and there was no chance that Karim Benzema was going to beat the Uruguayan to a starting place.

As horrible as it is to say, Messi’s injury has probably been the best thing to happen to Suarez and Neymar as they’ve been able to click during the Argentine’s recovery.

He’s found the net on 9 occasions this season so was a no-brainer up top.

barca real

Subs: Ter-Stegen, Marcelo, Varane, Busquets, Iniesta, James, Bale.