Really, the idea of combined XIs is really about having a bit of fun.
Real Madrid v Liverpool Combined XI
Ahead of Saturday's Champions League Final in Paris, here is what a combined XI of Real Madrid and Liverpool would look like.
However, it can also have an ancillary benefit. By considering how the two sides' personnel line up against one another, one can very easily get a feel for how the encounter might pan out.
So here is a stab at a combined XI for Real Madrid and Liverpool. Remember that this is based solely on the performances of the players involved in the Champions League, and that factors such as minutes played are also taken into account.
Alisson has been one of the best in the world when it comes to league action, but there has been a drop-off in terms of his Champions League performances. Here, it is Courtois who gets the nod.
The Belgian has been inspired at times for a Real Madrid side that plays a reactive style. Keeping things tight at the back and pulling off outstanding saves (his one against Jack Grealish really sticks in the mind) has been as important for Los Blancos’ progression as Karim Benzema’s goals at the other end.
The full-back is the most influential creator at Liverpool, and has had another season of strong performances on the big stage for the Reds.
There are, of course, still questions over his defensive aptitude, especially in matches where Jurgen Klopp’s side are getting swamped (e,g against Villarreal in the first half of the second leg). However, when the machine is purring like it should, Alexander-Arnold’s range of passing and crossing are a potent, devastating mix. Just ask Villarreal (in the second half of the first leg).
Virgil Van Dijk
Van Dijk is still not quite back to his pre-injury form, nevertheless he has been crucial for Liverpool in this run to the final.
At times, the sense has been that strikers are altogether scared to go up against him, such has been his level of physical dominance. I mean, did you see Lautaro Martinez actively turn down the chance to run at him when the opportunity presented itself? The calmness with which he defends, as well as his sweeping passes out to the flank, have served the Reds well this term.
It still is not clear whether he will be tapped to start on Saturday, but it says something about the speed of his integration that he undoubtedly gets in here.
Klopp has rotated him and Matip, with Konate playing in the Champions League and other cup competitions. Despite being thrown in at the deep end, the former RB Leipzig man has more than held his own, with his athleticism, speed and aggression making for a strong complement with Van Dijk. He is also a quite ominous threat on set-pieces.
Liverpool are defined by their full-backs, so you really cannot pick one without the other. However, even without that dynamic at the back of your mind, Robertson would still amply deserve his place here.
For one thing, discounting that harrowing away first leg against Villarreal (who wasn’t floundering that day?), he has been excellent, benefitting from Alexander-Arnold’s cross-field passes and galloping into space. For another, there is no proper competition on the Real Madrid side of things, with Ferland Mendy having spent quite a bit of time on the sidelines.
A close-run thing with compatriot Casemiro, but at the end of the day, Fabinho just played at a consistently higher level in the knockout rounds.
He was particularly impressive in helping Liverpool return from the brink in that semi-final at Estadio De La Ceramica. His anticipation and positioning are elite, and at times it can seem like he simply materialises in the right space at the right time to intercept, recover and recycle. Without him, Liverpool’s high line would be much less effective.
The evergreen Croatian has been instrumental to Real Madrid's progress through the knockout rounds. While he retains his metronomic qualities, it is his ability to play in bursts that has been most evident.
From his storming 15-minute spell against Paris Saint-Germain, to his outrageous assist to pull Los Blanco back from the dead against Chelsea, there have been highlight reel moments littered all through, enough that he gets into this selection on merit. He is no spring chicken anymore, but he sure knows how to roll back the years when the occasion demands it.
Kroos sort of gets in here by default, to be honest. No challenger on the Liverpool side has enough consistency and minutes in the Champions League to upstage him, and to be fair the German remains an important cog in the Real machine.
However, there is a growing sense of his expendability, especially in high-intensity matches. Carlo Ancelotti has taken to bringing him off for the more dynamic Eduardo Camavinga, a move that has paid off many times over. That said, to boil Kroos down to that would be a disservice to the times he has played well.
Real Madrid's right side is still a toss-up at this point, and so even though Salah has not been at his sparkling best in the knockout rounds, he gets the nod here.
On his day, the Egyptian is still one of the best players in the world, and he remains capable of damaging Real Madrid in Paris. He still posted important goals in the Group Stage against Atletico Madrid, as well as away at Inter, where Liverpool came under severe pressure for much of the proceedings.
Picks himself, doesn't he? The France international is very much at the top of his craft right now, and is rightly getting shouts for Ballon D'Or recognition.
It got so that, if he had not scored, you felt the scoring was not yet done; so influential and dangerous has Benzema been in the Champions League. Fifteen goals and two assists – if one feels the need to boil him down to the raw numbers – is quite the encapsulation of his level this season in Europe.
Luis Diaz only joined Liverpool in January, and Sadio Mane has often played as the centre-forward. However, this pick is more than just a matter of default.
If one were to distill the essence of this Real Madrid side, it would be based around Courtois, Modric, Benzema and Vinicius. The Brazilian has come on in leaps and bounds this season in all competitions, and it is a quite common sight to see him streaking away and combining with Benzema: it is, in fact, the one consistent facet of the Madrid attack. Their understanding is that telepathic.