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Spain v Argentina: A Combined XI

Tuesday 27th March 2018

Argentina is scheduled to play Spain in a friendly tonight. Both the teams have won two matches against each other. The most recent one going in the South American’s favour 4-1. Julen Lopetegui will look forward to hopefully winning this one after drawing the previous match against Germany. Argentina will be looking to claim another win after their 2-0 victory over Italy at the Etihad Stadium last week.

Both the teams will field their best available players -Mauro Icardi, Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata and the Manchester City duo- David Silva and Sergio Aguero have been not included in their respective squads.

Here’s a star-studded combined XI (4-4-2). Let’s see who makes the cut?

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

Probably both Manchester United keepers will be fielded. David De Gea makes the cut. I believe Sergio Romero would agree with the same as he is used to being the secondary option to De Gea. De Gea is the best goalkeeper in Europe presently. The United shot-stopper has kept 15 clean sheets in 30 matches in the PL. The Spanish number one had a nearly perfect match against heavy-weights Germany last week.

Right-back: Cesar Azpilicueta

Azpilicueta is the best defender in the PL for a couple of seasons now. His ability to play centrally and down the flanks make him an exciting player. He likes to hold possession an play short passes in the defensive half. This pick is definitely inviting questions for dropping Carvajal. But to look beyond the Real Madrid duo- Nacho and Carvajal, Azpi suits the Lopetegui system better than anyone.

Centre-backs: Sergio Ramos, Nicolas Otamendi

Ramos is a born leader. In recent times, the match against Germany last week gives you enough evidence of how the team revolves around him and burgeons to win. 

Otamendi has undergone a transformation under Pep Guardiola. He is an unorthodox centre-back who likes to play a series of short passes before launching an attack. Partnering along with Ramos, the pair would form an unbreakable wall in front of De Gea. The Argentine has managed a 93% pass completion rate across competitions this season and has completed 2679 passes (the most) in the PL.

Left-back: Jordi Alba

Alba has been formidable for Barcelona both defensively and offensively. After getting it wrong in the last match, Alonso needs to wait to make his debut as Lopetegui is not looking beyond Alba at present. 

RM: Angel Di Maria

Angel Di Maria has transformed himself to play down the wings. Unai Emery uses him as a right-winger. The primary pick for this position was David Silva. The Spanish team released Silva due to personal reasons, making a direct path for the Argentine. Di Maria has been involved in 26 PSG goals this season.

Midfielders: Saul Niguez, Ever Banega

Saul has to be given an opportunity by his boss. This would work in favour of Andres Iniesta as well, given that the 33-year-old needs rest. Saul is an idealistic midfielder who works in both the situations- when in possession and when defending. The Atletico star has made 105 tackles and 45 interceptions (the most combined) in 28 matches.

Banega is a versatile playmaker who is super quick on his feet and possesses amazing dribbling skills. The Sevilla number 10 is very creative and has a special admiration for set pieces. He can be the front man to attack and can also drop deep to regain possession. He scored the opener for the Albicelestes in their last match against the Azzurri. United fans, do you remember him from the UCL Round of 16 matches?

LM: Marco Asensio

Asensio will be tested by Lopetegui after Isco had a decent game against Germany. The Los Blancos playmakers, both of them, have performed consistently for their club. Asensio has scored eight goals and assisted five. He has also registered a 90% pass completion rate across competitions this season.

Strikers: Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi

The striking partnership of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero has done wonders for Argentina scoring a combined 97 goals. But Aguero was ruled out the match due to a knee injury. In his absence, Higuain has to be the man. While Diego Costa has kick-started his second innings at Atletico on a high, Higuain has been very consistent for the Italian giants. The 30-year-old has scored 20 goals this season in Italy and Europe.

After resting Messi in the last, Sampaoli would play him in this high-stakes clash. He is arguably the best footballer ever. It would be a bizarre situation to not pick him. And with Jordi Alba, the Argentine thrives at his pedestal best. Alba has registered eight assists in La Liga this season, of which five have been to his Barca mate- Messi.

Harsh Vardhan

A pilot in the making residing in India, Harsh is also an ardent follower of European football and his heart resides in Manchester, particularly the blues. He has deep passion for writing, with special admiration for combined-elevens, while also contributing to the sports column of a local daily.

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