Picking a Combined Chelsea-Paris Saint-Germain XI
Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are set to go into battle in their Champions League quarter-final tie.
Both sides are likely to have been reasonably happy with the draw, believing themselves to be up against potentially beatable opposition.
But just for a moment, imagine a side comprised of their combined talents?
Who would make a PSG-Chelsea combined side?
Criticism for Chelsea's 31-year-old goalkeeper has gradually crept in over recent seasons.
Perhaps it is the knowledge that the Blues have a man who could be an even better 'keeper sat elsewhere in the Champions League—in Thibaut Courtois.
But, until such a time as the Belgian belatedly starts his Stamford Bridge career, Petr Cech remains one of the Premier League's best in his field.
And PSG really don't have anything that can compare with that.
Italian Salvatore Sirigu has an enviable Ligue 1 record, and he is a firm fans favourite at Le Parc des Princes.
But the Czech international is firmly in possession of the gloves in this team.
Gregory Van Der Wiel
Right-back is one of the areas Chelsea have sometimes looked a little short this season.
Branislav Ivanovic, while a tough and committed customer in defence, is open to the accusation that his crossing isn't always the greatest.
Cesar Azpilicueta, probably the Blues' best option there, has played almost the entire season on the opposite side of the pitch (more on him later).
And so it falls here to a man Chelsea have been linked with as far back as three years ago, as Dominic Fifield wrote in The Guardian, to wear the No. 2 shirt.
Gregory van der Wiel, first-choice right-back for Holland, looks to have the better all-round game of all the candidates.
That England will almost certainly go to the World Cup without him, as Daniel Taylor wrote in The Guardian, is a farce.
That Chelsea are yet to agree a new contract with him, as Matt Law wrote in The Telegraph, is a worry.
And that any side with him at their potential disposal would omit him is unthinkable.
At 33, John Terry has made a return to his prime—looking, yet again, like one of the top two or three central defenders in the Premier League.
But, as has been said so often before, he is more than just a defender.
"Captain, leader, legend" is the name they have for him at Stamford Bridge.
Yes, he lacks pace—he always has done.
But, as he has shown down the years, pairing him with a faster man at the back—such as the great partnership he shared with William Gallas—can create a defence which is practically unbeatable.
Which brings us on to...
One of the fastest and most complete defenders in European football, the PSG captain would create a formidable centre-half dream team with Terry.
Clever both in defence and in turning it into attack, he seems not to suffer the all too frequent brain-freeze that is a hallmark of David Luiz's defensive game.
He is the type of player Chelsea have been seeking for some time—though at 29, and with the price that goes with his status as captain of Brazil, it is a move that looks unlikely to happen.
But, just for a moment, imagine him stood alongside Terry in the same back four.
It speaks volumes about the talent, hard work and professionalism of Cesar Azpilicueta that he gets the nod here, even though he is technically out of position.
Bought by Chelsea as a right-back, albeit one with versatility, he has made his name at Stamford Bridge as the man who has ousted Ashley Cole from the other end of the defensive line.
And, to be frank, he has made the position his own.
There is a debate over whether he would be a better inclusion on the right. Though, if it is possible to include both Azpilicueta and van der Wiel—both in positions where they clearly flourish—why worry too much about that sort of thing?
Chelsea's signing of the season, Nemanja Matic, has been nothing short of a revelation in the Premier League.
You won't be seeing him line up for Chelsea against PSG, of course, because the Serbian is cup tied—having already featured for Benfica in the competition earlier this season.
And Chelsea will have tough selection decisions to make as a result of this.
He is far from the finished product. But, in a side playing 4-3-3 with a single holding man, few have looked better in that role since the great Claude Makelele hung up his boots.
Matic offers so much more than just defensive duties—he is key in Chelsea going forward too.
I've included him here contrary to UEFA regulations because, well, I make the rules.
Next season, when Chelsea are able to include him in their Champions League squad too, they will be a far more rounded side for it.
While the 22-year-old Brazilian has flagged in recent performances, it is impossible to ignore the fact that he has been one of the Premier League's great young stars of the last two seasons.
With an incredible brain for the game in one so young, his passing and long-range shooting are a sight to behold.
Combined with a dribbling style that sometimes makes it look like the ball is tied to his boot, he is a remarkable playmaker who can also offer something in practically every part of the midfield.
There are few players in the game who can look so impressive in so many different roles.
The third and youngest Brazilian in this fictional team, at just 21, Lucas Moura is probably the biggest work in progress.
There are definitely more than a few signs that this player is very special—the natural pace, his agility on and off the ball.
While it is often said that Oscar has the toughness to look like an English player with Brazilian qualities, Lucas looks Brazilian through and through.
Whether that flair and skill could ever be augmented by the physicality needed in the Premier League is not the matter at issue here. What concerns this team selection is whether he can bring something no other player could to the side.
Lucas—you're picked to start.
His partnership with Zlatan Ibrahimovic has perhaps not been all it was expected to be.
Like any strike pairing, these things take time. And more often than not, Laurent Blanc has tended to shy away from pitching the two a full 90 minutes together.
Centre-forward is Edinson Cavani's natural position, but, at PSG, he has often been found on the right.
Wherever one plays him, and whatever his current frame of mind is about life at PSG, his record this season of four goals in six Champions League games would certainly get him into Chelsea's starting XI.
And, who knows: Maybe that is somewhere he may end up for real next season.
He has already scored 10 goals in this season's Champions League tournament—that's two more than Chelsea's three strikers combined.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be a force of nature, a man who carries his own special baggage, but Chelsea would have him in a heartbeat.
The Blues' three forwards—Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba—have largely proved to be their undoing this season.
And, even at times of sublime achievements, spectators have often mused what Mourinho's side would look like with a top-class striker.
Few fit that bill better than Ibrahomovic—though at 32, he may now be too long in the tooth to link up with Mourinho once more.
But, for me, and I suspect for pretty much anyone, he easily makes this combined XI.
I'm opting for a 4-3-3, with Hazard playing on the left.
Would it work, given the other two forwards I'm including? We're in dream land here, so does it really matter?
But it seems to me impossible to name any side in Europe right now without naming Hazard. So on that basis, beyond all the numerous other reasons why one would include him, he's in.
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