Friday Night Football is scheduled for an epic return on Sky Sports, and it felt only right that I put together this combined eleven from Chelsea and Liverpool as we prepare for what should be a great game.
Probably the most straight forward choice in this joint 11 comes in goal. While Thibaut Courtois was not exactly convincing last season, he is a class above Liverpool’s current first choice keeper Simon Mignolet. Mignolet’s Belgian colleague commands his area far better than Mignolet and is an equally as good a shot stopper. Liverpool’s new signing Loris Karius is yet to prove himself so this decision is not even partially difficult.
A more challenging decision comes at right-back. Branislav Ivanovic is undoubtedly an experienced rock at the back, who offers a strong aerial presence and a great footballing ability. However, I’ve decided to leave out the Serbian brute for the in-form Englishman Nathaniel Clyne who was unfortunate to have lost his spot to Kyle Walker at the Euros. Clyne offers pace down the right, a dangerous cross and solidity at the back. He’s unlikely to pop up with a goal but he does contribute heavily at both ends of the pitch.
Another easy decision comes at left back. Although James Milner has proven to be a reasonable solution for Liverpool, solid as ever. He does not offer the same defensive solidity as Chelsea’s ever present Cesar Azpilicueta. While Alberto Moreno may go down as one of the worst Spanish defenders to ever grace the Premier League, Azpilicueta is on a much different spectrum. He has proven to be gifted enough to adapt as a left back despite spending his whole career at right back. His friendship with his Chelsea compatriots, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic is shown on the pitch and despite a shaky season last year, they make up a very formidable defence.
The controversial Englishman is the best Premier League defender of all time, and one of the best defenders ever, period. An incredible stopper even at the not so perky age of 35, Terry commands his back four better than anyone else in the league. The Chelsea defence was shaky at best at times last season, but Conte has shown faith in the aging Englishman, claiming that his personality and leadership skills are irreplaceable. You cannot argue with that logic, and despite the arrival of David Luiz, Terry maintains his spot at the back.
The lack of Liverpool defenders in this back four highlights where the majority of their problems lie. Klopp would take Cahill and Terry in a heartbeat as his centre back partnership. Dejan Lovren has shown signs of quality but refuses to maintain consistency, while Joel Matip will certainly strengthen Liverpool’s clumsy back four. David Luiz can’t manage to beat his English colleague despite his £31m transfer last month, Cahill and Terry remain a formidable partnership.
Although the view that Kante is as good as Claude Makelele irritates me beyond belief and makes me want to throw a chair through the computer screen at the deluded fans who write these opinions, Kante has proven to be an excellent acquisition for Conte, Kante isn’t and never will be as good as Makelele – who’s so good he had a position named after him. While not a great passer of the ball, Kante’s energy and ability to win the ball back was pivotal in Leicester City’s season last year. The Frenchman earned himself a huge transfer to Chelsea, and a place in the French national side to boot. Kante eases his way into the team over Nemanja Matic and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson.
The Brazilian wizard easily secures a place in this eleven. His masterclass against Arsenal proved just how good he is when he is at his best. Despite the fact that he occasionally goes missing, Coutinho is undoubtedly one of the brightest talismans in the league. Klopp will hope that Coutinho can show up on the grand stage again this Friday.
The Belgian has finally managed to find his form again after what was nothing short of a woeful season last year, especially in comparison to his player of the season one the year before. Hazard offers pace and quality, Conte has also made him recognise his defensive responsibilities once again. Hazard was a sure thing when it came to picking this side and is obviously one of Chelsea’s biggest threats going forward.
This was actually the hardest decision I had to make, and the inclusion of Adam Lallana over Willian may be a controversial one. However, Adam Lallana has been exceptional since the turn of the year for club and for country. His ability to glide with the ball in possession is so easy on the eye and he has really worked on his defensive abilities as well. Very two footed, and arguably not as good as Willian – he has been included for his current form. Something that Willian has not been able to match since earlier in the year.
Arguably one of the best signings in the summer came in Liverpool’s acquisition of Sadio Mane from Southampton. Despite the high expenditure, the pacey forward already seems to fit Klopp’s bill to a tee. He adds an energy and flare that Liverpool were lacking despite all of their creativity. Able to play as a winger, a striker or in the number ten role, Mane has been an instant hit with the Liverpool faithful and you can see why. He has been dangerous from the off and his decimation of Arsenal’s Mr. Reliable Nacho Monreal highlighted this in their first game of the season.
Everyone loves to hate this excellent, absent minded, talented, mind-boggling striker. He is unquestionably one of the best centre forwards that the league has and on his day he can be a complete nightmare to defend against. His decision making has certainly been questionable at times, and his temper is short. He certainly isn’t going to win any popularity contests, and he loves to wind up defenders. However, when he is on point he seems unstoppable. From scoring goals, to holding up the ball, Costa has everything that a lone striker needs and easily beats Roberto Firminho and the out of favour Daniel Sturridge to the number 9 slot.
Disagree? Let me know by commenting below or tweeting me @DanTempz
Either way, it should be an excellent game, especially for the neutral.