Picking a Combined Real Madrid-Bayern Munich XI
Real Madrid welcome Bayern Munich to the Bernabeu on Wednesday night in the second of back-to-back Champions League semifinals in the Spanish capital this week.
It brings together some of the world's finest footballers and pits two of the game's most respected managers–Carlo Ancelotti and Josep Guardiola–against each other in what is expected to be an intriguing tie between two European heavyweights.
Reports in Spain, per Marca, have confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo will be fit to play but would the Portuguese star feature in a side made up of both Bayern and Madrid?
The following slides try to pick a team featuring players from both sides of the divide, using a 4-3-3 formation.
Three men were vying for the goalkeeper's jersey but in the end the younger, more reliable, Manuel Neuer prevailed.
Iker Casillas would one time have been a shoo-in for this position, however, he has been restricted to just Champions League and Copa del Rey appearances this season and Diego Lopez isn't in the same bracket as Neuer.
Bayern 1-0 Madrid
Philipp Lahm, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, David Alaba
It was never a question of whether Philipp Lahm would make this side, it was just about deciding whether to play him in a more familiar right-back role, or placing him in his newer central midfield role.
In the end, with the depth of quality midfielders on offer, it made more sense for him to line up on the right side of the back four.
There were a few options when choosing who to play inside Lahm—Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Dante and Jerome Boateng.
Dante and Boateng form a fine partnership, but Ramos and Pepe probably just about edge it.
Ramos is a two-time European Champion and World Cup winner with Spain and, at the age of 28, has already amassed 115 caps for his country, while Pepe, despite the occasional error, has been impressive in the Madrid defence this season.
Bayern 3-2 Madrid
Javi Martinez, Luka Modric, Thiago Alcantara
Picking three midfielders from the array of quality on offer at the Bernabeu and Allianz Arena is not an easy task.
Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xabi Alonso have been stalwarts at their respective clubs for a number of seasons now, but there is an argument that both—particularly the older Alonso—are now on the other side of their peak years.
Meanwhile, Luka Modric has been enjoying his best form since arriving in Spain and should be listed among the best midfielders in Europe over the past season.
Perhaps controversially, alongside the Croatian are two Bayern players who have not featured—nominally through injuries—as much as they would have liked to during the current campaign: Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez.
Martinez is included to add backbone to the midfield, while Thiago, when fit, has shown the progress under Guardiola many tipped him to have at Barcelona.
That somehow means players like Toni Kroos, Angel Di Maria, Sami Khedira and Mario Goetze are not included, all of whom you could make a strong case for.
Bayern 5-3 Madrid
Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery
For the front three positions there is, like across the middle of the pitch, a pool of extremely talented players to choose from.
However there are three more talented than the others: Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery.
The latter two filled two of the top three spots in January's Ballon d'Or, with Lionel Messi in between them, and the former became the world's most expensive player last summer, demonstrating why in last week's Copa del Rey final.
Karim Benzema, whose link up play has been fantastic this season, would offer a more natural frontman role, but he is not quite at the same level as the other three.
Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben would also have been creditable options
Bayern 6-5 Madrid