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Combined XI: Chelsea vs. Liverpool

Sports Mole selects the strongest combined XI from those expected to be available for Chelsea's Premier League showdown with Liverpool this weekend.

Chelsea and Liverpool lock horns for the 58th time since the turn of the millennium this weekend when the Reds travel to Stamford Bridge.

Premier League points are up for grabs in West London, three days on from the Blues earning bragging rights in the sides' EFL Cup third-round tie.

Liverpool, who top the early league standings, are aiming to avoid consecutive away defeats to Chelsea in the top flight for the first time since a run of three losses between October 2004 and September 2006.

As the sides prepare to do battle once again on Saturday, Sports Mole selects the strongest combined XI from both teams using those expected to be available this weekend.

Combined XI: CHE vs. LIV

Less than three weeks after Liverpool made Alisson Becker the world's most expensive goalkeeper, Chelsea went one better by splashing out £71 to sign Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao. Both keepers are undoubtedly extremely talented, but for the here and now it is Alisson who has the better record and boasts the most top-level experience, seeing him get the nod in this side.

Both teams are also blessed with quality full-backs, and indeed wing-backs in Chelsea's case, with Marcos Alonso readjusting to his new role with ease in Maurizio Sarri's early weeks at the helm. While Andrew Robertson can mix attack with defence, Alonso's stats simply cannot be ignored - a combined 21 goals and assists since the start of 2016-17. There is a similar debate to be had on the opposite flank but, while Trent Alexander-Arnold has burst onto the scene over the past 12 months, Cesar Azpilicueta has been a consistent presence for a number of years now and remains a key man for the Blues.

Partnerships in the heart of defence are key, of course, and in Joe Gomez Liverpool appear to have found a player who works perfectly alongside the world's most expensive defender in Virgil van Dijk. Sarri is reportedly keen to strengthen in that department in the New Year, with David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger his most picked duo so far, and the Italian would love to have a player in the mould of Van Dijk.

There are a number of midfield options to choose from, with Jurgen Klopp picking between Naby Keita, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri and Georginio Wijnaldum in the league this term, whereas Sarri has the likes of N'Golo Kante, Jorginho, Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Danny Drinkwater, Cesc Fabregas and Mateo Kovacic. Selecting three from that list is not an easy task, but due to his incredible ball-winning abilities - even if they are seen less often these days - Kante has to get the nod in an otherwise attack-minded side. Chelsea teammate Jorginho has adapted seamlessly to Premier League football, meanwhile, recently racking up a record number of passes in a single game, and Milner has impressed in his box-to-box type role for Liverpool in the early weeks of the season, offering this hybrid XI a perfect blend of qualities.

Arguably the first name on the teamsheet at the present moment is Eden Hazard, having starred for Chelsea in his side's 2-1 win at Anfield in midweek. If Hazard is to get the nod on the left, and last season's PFA Player of the Year Mohamed Salah on the right, it means Sadio Mane, Willian and Pedro missing out in favour of Roberto Firmino, who brings out the best in those around him when used through the middle.

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Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah celebrates with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane after opening the scoring during his side's Premier League clash with Brighton & Hove Albion on August 25, 2018
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5Manchester CityMan City53111111010
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs530236-39
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10Aston Villa52128717
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