Last night, we witnessed a major upset at the Santiago Bernabéu as underdogs Juventus went ahead to beat Real Madrid 3-2 on aggregate to secure a spot in the final in Berlin alongside Barcelona. The hosts seemed to have everything under control in the opening minutes, and eventually took the lead through a spot kick which Cristiano Ronaldo easily converted. The Italians had the final say however, as they managed to net in that decisive equalizer in the 57th minute through a former Madrid man, Álvaro Morata. This means that Juve will make their first appearance in the finals since 2003, where they lost out on penalties against (ironically) Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan.
Real will feel pretty hard done, as that result effectively means that they will not lift any silverware this season. All credit goes to the Old Lady though, as they indeed worked hardest and deserved the result. Both teams have shown to be resolute and ruthless both in defense and attack throughout the whole campaign, and that got me wondering whether there is a single Premier League team that could take on either one of these sides toe-to-toe.
As you probably already know, the answer was a firm no. Not even champions Chelsea would manage to take on any of these two and come out victorious. Therefore, I decided to get a combined XI from the current top four in English football that would mount a serious challenge.
Between the sticks:
A tight one here between Thibaut Courtois and David De Gea. Both goalkeepers have been outstanding in the league this season and have been instrumental to both their team’s success. Both would probably do well but De Gea edges it for me due to his quick reflexes and concentration levels throughout the game, as witnessed when United beat Everton 2-1 at Old Trafford. Given the shambolic defense that the Spaniard has had to deal with the entire season, his saves have been massively important as they have rescued more points compared to Courtois.
Cesar Azpilicueta. A no-brainer. This lad has been nothing short of sensational in this position. His pace, tackling and ability to hold on the ball is brilliant and he has been consistent since day one (except that day Newcastle totally run them over). He easily beats Luke Shaw, Kolarov and Monreal who have had very unconvincing spells here.
Another Chelsea man takes this spot, and his name is Branislav Ivanovic. He likes to get forward, and has chipped in with a number of goals in all competitions for the Blues this season. Oh, I almost forgot; he’s a brick in defense and absolutely dominant in the air. The Serbian beats Zabaleta for consistency and Bellerin for concentration. A true warrior.
My first pick here would be Laurent Koscielny. Great at ball interception and passing, the French international has proven to be one of the best and is one of the most in form defenders in the Premier League at the moment. Had plenty of injuries earlier in the season but seems to be in top shape now.
I know what you’re thinking; obviously John Terry. Well, no. I mean, he is a very very good defender but believe me, he’d be done for with the pace that is in Barcelona’s attack right now. Slay me if you will, but Chris Smalling takes it for me. After a horrible start to the season, he has settled down well and has improved his performances, being the second highest scoring defender in the league and earning himself a new contract in the process. His passing and aerial ability is great. Questions have to be asked about his concentration and decision making sometimes but he is real quality, no doubt.
Another no-brainer here. Nemanja Matic by a mile! This fella is the real deal when it comes to protecting a back four. Strong, athletic and never afraid to tackle, Matic has snuffed out danger from some of Europe’s deadliest attacks. He also intercepts the ball well and is a surprisingly good dribbler going forward. His closest competitor is United’s top dog Carrick, but the frequency of his injuries due to his age make me wonder whether he’d last the full ninety.
First obvious choice here would be Fabregas for very obvious reasons: passing ability, through balls and holding on to the ball. Has absolutely shone since joining Cheslea. He also drops back to defend at the bus driver’s request.
I will be unpopular on this one, but Aaron Ramsey takes it for me. If it wasn’t for his constant injury bouts, he would’ve made it to the team of the year and possibly wouldn’t be at Arsenal. He is a good play-maker and a constant counter attack threat when played in a central role. His key passes has also seen him get a number of assists this season despite the inconsistency of his appearances. His crossing lets him down at times but he’s an overall quality player. Stop getting injured all the time, please!
Yet another Chelsea star, Eden Hazard. He’s got everything you’d want in a winger: pace, dribbling, passing, ball retention and finishing. Although I was part of those that felt he didn’t deserve the PFA award, I cannot deny he is one of the best in the Premier League and it’s only a matter of time before he’s up there with the elites of world football (
read bought by Madrid).
Boy, where would Arsenal be without this man? Certainly one of Wenger’s best signings in recent years, the Chilean has taken little time to settle in the Premier League and at times has single-handedly carried Arsenal to victory. Like Hazard, Alexis Sanchez is pacey, a good dribbler and a clinical finisher. He is also quite dangerous on the counter as well as set pieces. These two would torment any defense in the world and leave them with sore feet.
As with the goalkeepers, this is also a tight one between Diego Costa and Sergio Agüero. Both strikers have been cold blooded in front of goal, sometimes even scoring at will. Currently, Agüero is the League’s top scorer, with a massive 25 goals to his name. Costa is a distant third, with 19. He’d probably have more were it not for his injury. Sergio Agüero edges out Costa for me though, and only because of one attribute: discipline. Costa would probably get sent off after Chiellini ruffles his feathers, leaving my team to struggle for the rest of the game. His aggressiveness is certainly useful, but sometimes it gets the better of him and more often than not it ends up being ugly.
There you have it. Would this team manage to contain Messi or beat Buffon? probably not. But would they give us an entertaining match while trying to? Most definitely.
What do you think? Do you have a different team? let me know in the comment section below. Also, if you like my blog, be sure to subscribe or follow me.
See you on the pitch!