Combined XI: Arsenal vs Barcelona

Formation: 4-3-3

Arsenal host Barcelona on Tuesday night in their Champions League knockout round first leg, here’s SillySeason’s combined eleven.

Goalkeeper – Petr Cech (Arsenal)

The shot-stopper was Arsenal’s only signing of the summer transfer window, but he could be considered the signing of the season; especially if Arsenal win the Premier League.

But his attention will be away from the title race in midweek, as the Gunners face the reigning and defending European champions in Barca.

Although Arsene Wenger has preferred David Ospina between the sticks for the cup competitions, we fully expect Cech to play. The 33-year old will have to be in top form if his side are to get a result against arguably the best team in the world.

Right-back – Hector Bellerin (Arsenal)

A former Barcelona trainee before coming through Arsenal’s ranks, Bellerin has shown the Premier League the potential that he has.

He has made the right-back berth his own at the Emirates Stadium, keeping Frenchman Mathieu Debuchy out of the team.

The Spaniard is reportedly the quickest player at the North London club ahead of Theo Walcott, and he has certainly shown some of that pace when he bombs forward in attack to help create chances for teammates.

Centre-backs – Gerard Pique (Barcelona) and Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)

Pique is very comfortable with the ball at his feet and can even grab a goal or assist during open play due to his quality and vision.

His vision also helps him defensively, as he can read the play early. This sees him intercept passes into opposition attackers and benefits him when he wants to press players as well.

On other hand, Koscielny is equally as comfortable on the ball, but he is also very good in the air – which helps beat opposition forwards to headers.

The France international’s aerial ability also makes him a goalscoring threat off set pieces such as corner kicks and free-kicks.

Left-back – Jordi Alba (Barcelona)

Having Jordi Alba at left-back and Hector Bellerin at right-back would provide a solid balance to this back four.

Like Bellerin, Alba has pace, a low centre of gravity and is excellent on the overlap when supporting his team’s attacks.

He is also a solid defender, even if he isn’t the biggest or strongest defensive player you’ve ever seen.

Holding midfielder – Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)

If you want anyone anchoring your midfield in the modern game, it’s this man.

He isn’t the toughest tackler, but like Pique his positional sense and reading of the game means he doesn’t have to tackle; he has the ability to break up team’s attacks before they even get started.

Not only that, once he breaks up the play he can pick a pass to turn defence into attack in quick transition.

Central midfielders – Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona) and Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

When Rakitic was at Sevilla, he was probably one of the most under-rated players in La Liga.

However, now he’s playing in a top class Barcelona side he has shown his quality to the world. The Croatia international doesn’t look out of place in Luis Enrique’s squad of stars.

His best traits are keeping hold of possession and running past the strikers to get into attacking positions and chipping in with the odd important goal (cast your eyes back to last year’s Champions League final).

Next to him would be Arsenal’s maverick German Mesut Ozil. Much like Rakitic, he loves having the ball at his feet and enjoys retaining possession, but they are very different in their approach.

Rakitic likes to go past defenders as we’ve mentioned, whereas Ozil likes to be the one playing the ball past those defenders. The 2014 World Cup Winner has 17 assists in England’s top flight so far, just three away from equalling Thierry Henry’s record.

Imagine the amount of assists he would get in this dream team…

Front three – Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar (Barcelona)

Alexis Sanchez, another ex-Barcelona man who is now playing for Arsenal, unfortunately misses out on one of the three forward positions.

The Gunners’ Olivier Giroud could also feel hard done by, particularly after his form in Europe this season.

Despite that, surely this front three is self-explanatory? Can anyone argue with these selections up front?

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