Jun 25, 2020 at 8.15pm UK
Man CityManchester City
Pulisic (36'), Willian (78' pen.)
Alonso (38')
FT(HT: 1-0)
De Bruyne (55')
De Bruyne (76')

Combined XI: Chelsea vs. Manchester City

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Sports Mole selects its strongest combined XI from the squads of Chelsea and Manchester City ahead of Thursday's Premier League showdown at Stamford Bridge.

Two of the Premier League's top four meet on Thursday evening when Chelsea welcome champions Manchester City to Stamford Bridge.

Both sides have enjoyed successful returns to action since the coronavirus pandemic so far, with Chelsea beating Aston Villa at the weekend to strengthen their grip on fourth place.

Man City, meanwhile, have prolonged their title reign that little bit longer courtesy of dominant wins over Arsenal and Burnley since their return, scoring eight goals without reply in that time.

Both squads are blessed with some of the best players in the division, and here Sports Mole selects its strongest combined XI using only those available for Thursday's contest.

Kepa Arrizabalaga may be the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, but he has some way to go to prove that he is the best. Ederson, by contrast, is very much in that conversation and he boasts almost twice as many clean sheets as his Chelsea counterpart this term, in addition to making more saves and conceding fewer goals.

While the gloves are an easy decision, it is perhaps surprising that only one other Man City defender makes the cut, particularly given that the champions have conceded nine goals fewer than Thursday's hosts this season.

Marcos Alonso gets the nod at left-back ahead of Benjamin Mendy as he has made more interceptions, tackles and clearances than the Frenchman despite playing fewer games, in addition to scoring four goals this season.

City's problems at centre-back are well documented, and even with Aymeric Laporte now fit again Guardiola has been forced to rely on Fernandinho to fill in at the back, with John Stones and Eric Garcia both injury doubts and Nicolas Otamendi seemingly not trusted.

That allows Antonio Rudiger to partner Laporte at the back, and a third Chelsea player makes up the defensive line with the ever-reliable Cesar Azpilicueta just pipping Kyle Walker to right-back by virtue of his superior stats in terms of goals, assists, blocks, interceptions, tackles and clearances.

N'Golo Kante completes the Chelsea quartet in this XI as the holding midfielder ahead of Rodri, Jorginho and Billy Gilmour, but in front of the Frenchman it is Man City all the way.

Both clubs are stacked with talent in midfield and, while Kevin De Bruyne was a shoo-in, the third spot in that trio was fiercely contested between the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Mateo Kovacic, Ross Barkley and Mason Mount.

In the end, we have gone for the proven class and experience of David Silva, who is now coming to the end of his glittering Man City career but has shown since the restart that he is still an elite-level player, being one of only two outfielders to start both Man City games so far.

Riyad Mahrez is the other to have done that, scoring twice against Burnley to take him up to 11 goals and 15 assists across all competitions this season.

Raheem Sterling ended his 2020 drought in the first game back and boasts impressive stats himself despite that lengthy period without a goal, comfortably beating the likes of Willian, Pedro and Christian Pulisic to a place in this XI.

Centre-forward was a more closely-contested battle given Sergio Aguero's absence through injury, but we have gone for his replacement Gabriel Jesus ahead of Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham.

If the season as a whole was being judged then Abraham probably would have earned a place, but more recently he has fallen behind Giroud in the pecking order and Jesus has a better minutes-per-goal ratio than both of them regardless.

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