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Combined XI: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

:Headline: Combined XI: Manchester United vs. Chelsea:
Sports Mole selects its strongest combined XI from the squads of Manchester United and Chelsea ahead of Sunday's top-four showdown between the two sides.
By , Editor | 1mo

Manchester United host Chelsea at Old Trafford this Sunday in what could prove to be a pivotal match in an unpredictable top-four race.

Three points separate the sixth-placed hosts from their visitors in fourth, although it would take victory by four clear goals - and a defeat for Arsenal earlier in the day - for United to end the weekend in the Champions League places and have their fate back in their own hands.

As things stand it is Chelsea who have control over that lucrative fourth spot - helped largely by back-to-back league defeats for both Arsenal and United - and if they can heap more misery on their out-of-form hosts this weekend then they will be on the verge of Champions League football next season.

Here, Sports Mole selects its strongest combined XI from both squads, using only players available this weekend.



By his own very high standards, this has been a poor season for David de Gea. The Spaniard has conceded 50 league goals, failed to keep a clean sheet in his last 12 games and has made a string of high-profile mistakes, including one in Wednesday's Manchester derby.

However, while he has been more error-prone than usual, he has also continued to make plenty of very good saves and his years of being at a world-class standard give him enough credit in the bank to get the gloves in this team ahead of compatriot Kepa Arrizabalaga.

United's defensive stats are by no means solely down to De Gea, and that is a big reason behind Chelsea having three of the back four. Cesar Azpilicueta has not been quite as unflappable as in recent seasons but is still among Chelsea's most consistent performers and is one of the first names on Maurizio Sarri's teamsheet - an easy choice in this XI ahead of Ashley Young and Diogo Dalot.

There is more competition at centre-back from the likes of Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof, but Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz get the nod having formed a good partnership at the back under Sarri. Neither is the league's most commanding defender, but they have been more trustworthy than United's options this season.

Luke Shaw has perhaps been United's best and most consistent player throughout the campaign and earns his place at left-back ahead of Emerson Palmieri and Marcos Alonso, the latter of whom has fallen out of favour under Sarri in recent weeks.

Sarri has stuck with his philosophy in refusing to play N'Golo Kante in the position which made him so successful upon his move to England, but we have to disagree with the Italian and consider Kante a better option than both Jorginho and Nemanja Matic as the holding midfielder.

That frees up a midfield spot where Kante usually plays for Chelsea, and on current form that goes to Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has started four Premier League games in April alone having been given only one start all season prior to that.

United's Ander Herrera might usually compete for that spot, but he has been sidelined for the past six games and, while he could return this weekend, Loftus-Cheek's recent performances have lifted him above the Spaniard in this particular pecking order.

Paul Pogba does make the cut for United, though, and while his inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year sparked plenty of debate, his position in his XI is much less controversial considering the other options.

While Pogba did make the PFA cut, Eden Hazard missed out despite having scored 16 goals and created 13 more in the Premier League this season, making him comfortably the easiest selection in this team.

It is the opposite flank which creates more difficulties, with Callum Hudson-Odoi injured and neither Anthony Martial nor Romelu Lukaku in particularly good form. Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata provide alternatives, but for a wide role either Pedro or Willian are better suited and we go with the former Barcelona man.

Marcus Rashford leads the line in this team having firmly established himself as United's first-choice striker ahead of Lukaku under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Chelsea's main competition comes through Gonzalo Higuain, but he has been underwhelming since his January arrival and his four goals for the club have all come against teams currently in the bottom six.



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