Manchester City take on Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the second leg of the Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday. City trail 2-0 from the first leg and face a huge task to qualify for the last eight.
It’s the tie of the round, and here at Bleacher Report, we have been discussing which players would make a combined City and Barcelona XI. Both teams have an array of talent and picking an XI is far from an easy task, but here goes...
Joe Hart’s form has improved significantly since he was left out of the side earlier in the season after a series of errors that saw his side drop points—errors which could still cost City the title come May. Since his recall in December, he has looked far more stable and deserves credit for arresting his alarming decline. He's still not at the level he showed between 2010 and 2012, but he is much improved, nonetheless.
However, even with Hart's recent improvement, Victor Valdes would still be No.1 in a combined XI. He is an underrated ‘keeper, capable of pulling off superb saves and commanding his area at corners. His distribution is also far superior to Hart's, and overall, he is a much stronger option.
The right-back spot is one of the most fiercely contested positions in a combined City and Barca XI. Pablo Zabaleta has, in the last two years, become one of the most reliable full-backs in Europe, and his attacking game continually improves. He also brings leadership and professionalism, traits that have seen him become a cult hero amongst the City fans.
Dani Alves is one of Barcelona’s most potent attacking weapons, despite the array of talent they have in midfield and attack. Much like Maicon in his heyday with Inter, Alves creates a plethora of chances down the right-hand side, often conjuring something from seemingly nothing.
Zabaleta's reliability and discipline sees him get the nod, though. Just.
At centre-back, Vincent Kompany and Gerard Pique are the standout choices and would make a great partnership: Kompany an out-and-out defender with strength and pace, Pique a wonderful ball-playing centre-half.
City's lack of world-class options on the left makes Jordi Alba's inclusion the simplest choice across the back four. There are few better attacking full-backs in world football, and at 24, he will get even better.
The choice across the two squads in midfield is incredible.
Yaya Toure has to feature because of his unique mix of pace and power. His signature driving runs from deep are an asset to City, a rare sight in any side. He may have been let go by Barca in 2010, but his progression at City has been remarkable.
The passing and movement of Andres Iniesta and Xavi would complement Toure's physical presence perfectly. They have a near-telepathic understanding that makes Barcelona tick.
Lionel Messi, of course, would have to start. He's the best player in the world and arguably the best player the game has ever seen. In terms of match-winners, no one can touch Messi, making his inclusion an easy decision.
David Silva is City's most important attacker and the best player to have played for the club in the last 20 years. His passing and ability to retain possession would be essential to a combined XI, and he would find a place in the side, interchanging with Messi and causing damage from all angles.
And Sergio Aguero, whose pace and finishing ability make him one of the best No. 9s around, would provide the focal point of the attack, finishing off the chances he would no doubt get in such a talented side.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.