Liverpool take on Chelsea twice this week with games against the London side in the League Cup and Premier League, so it seems like a good opportunity to select a combined eleven from the two squads.
Both sides made a handful of signings over the Summer transfer window – and each broke the world record for the transfer fee paid for a goalkeeper, which is where I shall naturally start when picking my side.
GOALKEEPER: Alisson Becker (Liverpool)
The Brazil international gets the nod over Chelsea’s Spanish stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga for me. Neither have been considered top class goalkeepers for all that long, in the scheme of things, but the two clubs spent a fortune to bring them to the Premier League this Summer. Alisson hit the headlines last season with some excellent performances for Italian club Roma and was wanted by both Liverpool and Chelsea – which is one big reason to pick him for this team. But there are plenty others besides that. He was a key part of Roma reaching last season’s Champions League semi-final stage and has cemented himself as Brazil’s number one ahead of Manchester City’s Ederson – who was the most expensive keeper prior to our deal to bring Alisson to Anfield.
RIGHT-BACK: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
The Spain international has been played on both sides of the Chelsea defence as well as in the centre when they’ve deployed a back four and a back five. He has shown he has quality and versatility – as well as plenty of technical ability with some superb crosses. It was difficult to leave the emerging Trent Alexander-Arnold out of this side, but Azpilicueta has shown that he is one of the best defenders in the Premier League over the past few years and is at the level the young England international will aspire to reach in his career. And if he does, we will all be very happy indeed.
LEFT-BACK: Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
The Scotland international has just got better and better since he broke into the Liverpool side last season. His determination, crossing and passing have all been key assets and he has been a big part in the defensive improvement seen in 2018. Has deservedly been named captain of his country and has locked down the left-back spot in the side ahead of the inconsistent Alberto Moreno at Anfield. Another Spaniard in Marcos Alonso is his main rival for this side, but he operates better as a wing-back and, despite scoring more goals, just isn’t as good a defender as the former Hull City man.
CENTRE-BACK: Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)
The Holland international being in this side is an absolute no-brainer. He is a defensive leader and is composed, strong, quick, focused and just plain brilliant. Our improvements at the back have been huge since he (finally) joined the club at the beginning of 2018. He ranks as the best defender in the Premier League for many onlookers and is fast becoming one of the very best in the game. He makes whoever plays alongside him feel more comfortable and, in turn, improves their game. That has been shown by both Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez this year and he is someone we could not replace if we lost him.
CENTRE-BACK: Joe Gomez (Liverpool)
Chelsea supporters, and probably a few Reds, will scoff at his inclusion. But I don’t care. He has been superb so far this season and is being considered a potential England international for many years to come. Kyle Walker has started talking about reverting to right-back for Gareth Southgate’s side and he will be very aware that Gomez is primed to inherit his spot on the right of the back three. He has been composed and calm since moving over to the centre and looks much more at home there than in the right-back spot he occupied last season. An easy pick ahead of David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger and Gary Cahill. Andreas Christensen has looked very good for Chelsea at times, but I wouldn’t swap Gomez for him.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Some would choose Brazil-born Italy international Jorginho for this deep-lying role, while others might opt for Georginio Wijnaldum after his fine start to the campaign playing as ‘number 6’. But I would go for France international Kante. Not only has he recently won the World Cup with his country, but he won two Premier League titles in recent years and proved absolutely pivotal to both Leicester City and Chelsea in those campaigns. Is the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League still now and would get into my side here.
CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: James Milner (Liverpool)
Another selection that many Chelsea fans would consider ridiculous, but they won’t have seen enough of him over the past year or so. He has been enjoying the best form of his career and looks a lot younger than his thirty-two years. After a season consigned to covering left-back in 2016/17, he returned to being an option in midfield and has made himself practically undroppable. He led the assist charts in the Champions League last season and has been absolutely brilliant so far this season. Deserves to be in this team for his forceful challenge on Neymar last week alone.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The Belgian is one of the most naturally talented players in football these days and has to have a spot in this side. I wouldn’t drop any of Liverpool’s front three to accommodate him in an advanced position, however, so he will be the man to provide the link between midfield and the frontline. Was cited by Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri as the best player in the world recently, which is a claim I don’t agree with, and has been chased by Real Madrid. Would be a replacement for Philippe Coutinho, if we even need one, and that bit more. Exceptional player – when he’s up for it. Let’s hope he has a couple of off days this week.
LEFT-FORWARD: Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
The Senegal international has started the season in the form he finished the last in. Scored a goal in the Champions League final in May and was by far our most dangerous player after Mohamed Salah was crocked by Sergio Ramos. Is our top scorer so far this season and has been a constant threat in almost all of the games he’s played so far. Easily gets into this side. An absolute no-brainer.
CENTRE-FORWARD: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
The Brazil international started the season a little quietly, but he has returned to the kind of form we all know and love him for. His goal against Spurs was quickly followed by an eye injury which many feared would see him forced to sit out the Champions League opener against Paris Saint Germain. But he wasn’t having a bar of it and got himself ready enough to be among Jurgen Klopp’s options on the bench that night. And we all know what happened after his late introduction. Works harder than just about any Liverpool striker since Ian Rush in his heyday and is absolutely crucial to our aspirations. As he would be for this combined side.
RIGHT-FORWARD: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Chelsea fans will be absolutely gutted to see just how good this guy has turned out after being binned by Jose Mourinho. He was dynamite for Basel and that is what saw Liverpool and Chelsea go head to head for him in January 2014. Things have worked out just fine since he made the decision to head to Stamford Bridge instead of Anfield then, following his move to Italy and on to become a key player under Klopp for the Reds. Hasn’t kept up his outrageous goalscoring ratio from last season, but it was asking a lot to expect that from him. Nobody is going to sniff at a goal every other game anyway. Brilliant player and walks into this side.
Well that’s my combined eleven. Who would make it into yours?