Global Sports : Merson’s Man City V Barca XI

posted in: News | 0

Ahead of Barcelona’s visit to Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday, we asked pundit Paul Merson to pick his best combined XI from the two current squads.
Merse has no place for Luis Suarez, who has scored just seven goals for Barcelona since his £75m move from Liverpool last summer, though former Reds midfielder Javier Mascherano has been selected at centre-half.
Mascherano has started five of Barcelona’s six Champions League games this season, but three of Merson’s back five are representatives of Manchester City, including goalkeeper Joe Hart.
MERSON’S COMBINED XI (4-3-3): Hart; Zabaleta, Mascherano, Kompany, Alba; Xavi, Iniesta, Silva; Neymar, Messi, Aguero
“I have to admit, I don’t know a great deal about Barcelona’s keeper [Claudio] Bravo,” Merson told Sky Sports.
“He’s never stood out to me, but Joe Hart has, and when he’s on form he’s a top, top keeper.”
Merson has identified Vincent Kompany as his captain and admits not everyone will agree with his choice of centre-halves.
He said: “People might criticise me for not selecting Gerard Pique but for me, Mascherano works harder and passes better from the back, and I couldn’t leave Kompany out of the side – he’s the leader here.
“I really like [Pablo] Zabaleta as a full-back too. You know he’s going to bomb up and down from the first whistle to the last, and he’s quite rare in that he can defend just as well as he can attack.”
With Yaya Toure’s suspension in mind, Merson has opted for Barcelona’s veteran midfield double-act of Andres Iniesta and Xavi, who have each won the Champions League three times.
“If he wasn’t suspended, Yaya Toure would make my team – I think he’s good enough to make any side, to be quite honest,” said the former Arsenal midfielder.
“But I’ll stick to who’s available, so I’d have to have both Xavi and Iniesta in there. I know Xavi’s getting on a bit, but he’s still a top performer and he can still pick you apart.
“Iniesta is his partner in crime – I couldn’t have one without the other. But David Silva is another world-class operator, so I’d have him in there feeding off the other two.”
Merson suggests Luis Suarez’s lack of goals in Barcelona colours this season has cost him a place in his line-up, with Neymar and Sergio Aguero having scored 24 and 22 in all competitions respectively.
“In terms of goals, Suarez hasn’t really cut it in Barcelona colours yet,” added Merson.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s still one of the best players in the world, but so is Aguero and on this season’s form, it would be very difficult to leave him out of any side.
“Neymar has been brilliant since the World Cup and Lionel Messi is obviously one of the all-time greats.
“Last season, I’d have had Suarez in any team, but, with the way things have gone for him at Barcelona, I’m afraid Neymar gets the nod ahead of him.”
As for the match itself, Merson has predicted a 2-1 win for Barcelona, citing the absence of Toure as a major blow for Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
“Toure is a massive miss,” he added. “Without him, you’d imagine Fernando and Fernandinho will slot back into the centre of midfield, and I just can’t see them posing Barcelona too many questions.
“One of City’s problems in the Champions League, I think, is that they treat the games too much like a Premier League game.
“Everything’s different in Europe, and you have to adapt, and I don’t think they do that. They’re a bit tactically naïve.
“And if Fernando and Fernandinho do line up together, as they did when Toure was away in the league, then I’m afraid it won’t be enough to contain or threaten Barcelona.
“They need to make sure they don’t lose, if they can manage a score draw they’re still in the tie, but I’ve got a bad feeling they’ll lose on Tuesday.”
Merson is backing Barcelona to beat Manchester City 2-1

Previous Chapter
Next Chapter

Leave a Reply