PSG vs Real Madrid: A combined XI
The Spanish capital side will take on its French counterpart for the seventh time across all European competitions. Their records to date are two wins and two draws apiece. The last encounter ended in Real Madrid’s favour at the Santiago Bernebau in 2015 courtesy Nacho Fernandez’s goal. PSG would like to regain the advantage in today's encounter. Football's two most expensive players call the Parc des Princes home. They were signed to win matches such as these.
It should be no surprise there will be roughly 22 world class players on the pitch. With Kingsley Ukpai, looking over my shoulder I can only pick XI. Only players available for today's match are considered. Still this power-packed eleven will feature seven FIFPro footballers.
Manager: Zinedine Zidane
From valedictorian to principal, Zizou has made himself into a legend at the Bernabeu. Consecutive European Cups and a first La Liga in five years will do that. The Frenchman has all the silverware in his cabinet for which a manager aims.
People forget Unai Emery has three Europa League trophies to his name. Then again, isn't forgetting why we have the Europa League in the first place? The Spaniard is finally closing on his first league title in his second season in Paris.
The 4-3-3 has been a very reliable formation for Zidane. This combined XI will play the same.
Goalkeeper: Alphonse Areola
The best shot stopper in France's top tier might not be considered top class. Yet. That said, he has done what is necessary to be given the nod over Keylor Navas, who has conceded 19 times in 18 starts this season while keeping only five clean sheets. Areola has managed 15 in his 28 appearances.
Right-back: Dani Alves
A forgetful season for Dani Carvajal has cinched the Brazilian's place in this XI. Achraf Hakimi has failed to impress in high stakes matches. Meanwhile, the 34-year old has been named to FIFPro's World XI three consecutive times, seven in total. Alves brings nearly 700 match's worth of experience to the pitch, over a hundred in this competition.
Center-backs: Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos
The Los Blancos skipper has been at the heart of his club and country's defence for more than a decade. Ramos is a big match player who can decide the outcome at either end. Don't believe me? Reference the 2014 injury time equaliser that crushed Atletico's dream of hoisting their first Champions League trophy. Or the opener in the 2015/16 final. Don't write Mr 90 off.
After that, it seems a let down to say Raphael Varane is tall, physically robust, and a competent tackler. But he is. The Frenchman is gifted with pace and ball control skills that often surprise opponents. Following Pepe’s departure, he has been the thunder to Ramos' lightning in Real's rearguard.
Marcelo is a bonafide, dominant fullback. Tactically sound, calm under pressure, he can initiate the counterattack then follow up to insure the job is finished. Versatile and athletic, Zidane has coached the Brazilian to play as a full-back, a wide-midfielder, and winger. His form has dipped some this season. Whose hasn't for the Merengues? Regardless, I'll take him over Layvin Kurzawa everyday.
Center-Midfielders: Toni Kroos, Marco Verratti, Luka Modric
Kroos? We are talking about the steal of the century. Since his arrival from Bayern Munich, the German has maintained a 93% pass completion rate in all competitions. Additionally 18 of his 41 goals for die Mannschaft have been scored from outside the box. He's essentially passing the ball directly into the net.
Verratti is a technically gifted footballer with remarkable dribbling skills and a willful attacking expertise. His ability to hold possession, passing accuracy both long and short makes him the PSG midfield's backbone. The Italian’s transition from trequartista to regista has been sensational. It can be rightfully said he is following in the Maestro, Andrea Pirlo's, footsteps.
Speaking of Pirlo, Modric's slight physique and shaggy locks disguise an innovative playmaker with great vision. The Croatian is both dynamic and conscientious. He doesn't apologize for shredding defenses but does contribute to winning back the ball. The 32-year old is the archetypical contemporary midfielder with his prominent passing and dribbling techniques. His partnership with Kroos, roundly considered Spain's best midfield duo, has powered Madrid's trophy-filled run under Zidane. A master of second assists, Modric is the first and only Croatian to feature in the FIFPro XI.
Right Winger: Kylian Mbappe
Choosing between Mbappe and Gareth Bale is always going to be difficult. The Welshman's proclivity for injury tips the scale towards the French youngster. The world's most expensive teenager surely adds an unorthodox flavour to the squad. The French lad was seventh in the Ballon d'Or vote and the only U20 to feature in Top 30.
Left Winger: Neymar
The £200 million man. The world's most expensive player has been phenomenal this season. He's brought 27 goals and 14 assists across all competitions as the main man (finally) at PSG. To date, he's proven a worthy investment, crafting a Ballon d'or type season with les Rouge-et-Bleu. He manages a whopping seven successful take-ons per 90. With his name already engraved in football history, to pick anybody else ahead of him would be a mortal sin.
Centre Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
It wasn’t difficult to make a call between Edinson Cavani and the Portuguese talisman. The South American is definitely good, but apologies, he isn't Ronaldo. Enthralling with the ball, commanding in the air, relentless on set pieces, the record five-time Ballon d'Or winner surely has an edge over the Uruguayan. Bad form this season? It's beginning to come around. Write him off at your peril. For all the doom and gloom, CR7's nine goals were best in the group stages.