Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain are preparing to do battle in a mouth-watering showdown at Old Trafford in the Champions League, with PSG out for revenge after losing 2-1 to the Red Devils in the French capital last month.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men sit comfortably at the top of Group H heading into the penultimate round of fixtures, but PSG are hot on their trail as they occupy second spot in the group - three points behind the Red Devils at this stage.
United's most recent outing in the Champions League saw them sweep aside Istanbul Basaksehir 4-1 at Old Trafford, although the manner of United's victory against Southampton in the Premier League was less comfortable, but an inspired cameo from Edinson Cavani saw this week's hosts run out 3-2 winners on the South Coast at the weekend.
Meanwhile, PSG blew the race to qualify for the last 16 wide open last week as they overcame RB Leipzig 1-0 at the Parc des Princes, but Thomas Tuchel's side were held to a 2-2 draw by Bordeaux in the league following that crucial victory in Europe.
Both sides boast a plethora of talented players everywhere across the pitch, and with that in mind, Sports Mole picks a combined XI from both teams, using only players expected to be available for the encounter.
Two or three seasons ago, David de Gea would have waltzed his way into this team, but the Spaniard's recent performances in between the United sticks have left a lot to be desired. The Red Devils shot-stopper has retained his number one spot over Dean Henderson, but came under criticism once again after James Ward-Prowse's free-kick found its way into the back of the net at the weekend. While the Spaniard is no doubt an extremely talented goalkeeper, Keylor Navas already boasts eight clean sheets in 12 appearances this term and makes our team over De Gea, whose involvement is questionable due to a slight knee problem.
United right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka has proved his defensive prowess over the past couple of years, and while the former Crystal Palace starlet does not boast the greatest attacking output, his importance to the United rearguard cannot be understated. As well as impressing in the Premier League, Wan-Bissaka has played a big part in United's strong Champions League run and was a simple selection for this XI. Alessandro Florenzi is undoubtedly a top-class full-back, but the Roma loanee is just edged out by the United man.
Since the departure of his mentor Thiago Silva, Marquinhos has stepped up to the plate for PSG and it is easy to see why he has been named Tuchel's captain. The Brazilian is just as capable of deputising in midfield when required, and while Marquinhos was forced to miss the draw with Bordeaux due to a minor groin problem, he should be fine to face United and takes one of the centre-back spots in our team. Alongside the 26-year-old is his clubmate Presnel Kimpembe, who is back for this encounter after serving a suspension against Leipzig. An integral part of Tuchel's resilient defence this season, Kimpembe keeps United centre-backs Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof out of this team, with Eric Bailly doubtful and PSG's Thilo Kehrer a long-term absentee.
There was only ever going to be one option on the left-hand side of defence. PSG youngster Mitchel Bakker certainly boasts plenty of potential, but Alex Telles walks into this team. The Brazilian's United career has been on hold for a while, but Telles is finally starting to become a regular under Solskjaer and has cemented his position as first-choice left-back over Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams. Telles notched up two goals and two assists for Porto in the 2020-21 campaign before his departure, and registered a staggering 13 goals and 12 assists in all competitions last season. Telles's inclusion means there is no space in the team for Layvin Kurzawa, who is also a fitness doubt, while Juan Bernat is sidelined until 2021.
On his day, Paul Pogba would be one of the easiest selections for this combined lineup, but the World Cup-winning Frenchman has been left out of United's squads against West Brom and Southampton with an ankle injury. Pogba is yet to register a goal or assist in seven Premier League appearances either, but his midfield partner Fred has proven his worth to Solskjaer this season and makes the team over Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay, who is another injury concern for Wednesday's encounter.
Completing the midfield pairing is PSG stalwart Marco Verratti, who is another player to have endured an injury-hit period this season, but Verratti is now available and ready to take the midfield by storm. The classy Italian will be hoping to add to the 52 assists he already boasts in PSG colours and Verratti keeps his teammates Ander Herrera, Leandro Paredes and Danilo Pereira out of our XI. Donny van de Beek has shown flashes of quality during his early days at Old Trafford, but the former Ajax man is still not a nailed-on starter under Solskjaer, and Van de Beek concerned supporters when he uploaded an image of his swollen ankle to social media after the win over Southampton.
As we move into the final third, the first name in the attacking quartet is one that the United faithful will certainly not want to see. Angel Di Maria might be grateful that supporters cannot return to Old Trafford just yet, even if that means missing out on another bottle of Heineken being chucked at him from the stands, and the 32-year-old has made a name for himself at PSG since his ill-fated stint with the Red Devils came to an end. With four goals and five assists in all competitions already this season, Di Maria starts on the right-hand side of the attack over Mason Greenwood, Juan Mata and Pablo Sarabia. On the opposite flank, Marcus Rashford's five Champions League strikes were difficult to ignore, but it is impossible to leave Neymar out of this XI, with the Brazilian getting his seventh goal contribution of the season in the draw with Bordeaux.
The number 10 role could only be filled by one man. Bruno Fernandes is never far away from the spotlight - whether it be for his goalscoring prowess or alleged theatrics - but the Portuguese playmaker makes Solskjaer's team tick. With another goal and assist against Southampton, Fernandes took his tally across all competitions to 16 goal contributions for the season - a truly incredible return for the 26-year-old - and Fernandes eases into this team over PSG duo Rafinha and Julian Draxler, the latter of whom is expected to miss out anyway.
Up top, Moise Kean has enjoyed somewhat of a revival in the French capital and notched up his sixth goal for the Ligue 1 champions in the weekend stalemate with Bordeaux. However, the young Italian is nowhere close to competing with Kylian Mbappe for the final spot in this team, who shares Fernandes's haul of 16 goals and assists in the 2020-21 campaign. With talk of a potential move to Real Madrid in the summer starting to gather pace, Mbappe will be central to PSG's chances of coming away from their trip to Old Trafford with something to show for it, and the 21-year-old spearheads the attack over Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani. The former PSG man showed that he had not lost his goalscoring touch with a brace of headers in United's dramatic win over Southampton, but it was always going to be a difficult ask to pip Mbappe to the final spot in our combined XI. body check tags ::