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Combined XI: Paris Saint-Germain vs. Manchester City

Ahead of Wednesday's Champions League showdown between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, Sports Mole picks a combined XI from both squads.

Pep Guardiola prepares to renew hostilities with Mauricio Pochettino in the dugout as Manchester City travel to Paris Saint-Germain for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie on Wednesday night.

The two continental giants are pining for the chance to meet Real Madrid or Chelsea in the showpiece event on May 29, as PSG ensured that the crown would be in new hands after dumping Bayern Munich out at the quarter-final stage.

Meanwhile, Guardiola broke the quarter-final curse by masterminding a 4-2 aggregate success over Borussia Dortmund in the last eight, with Phil Foden inspirational for City over those two legs.

The visitors can no longer win the quadruple, but they travel to Paris having just secured their fourth EFL Cup on the bounce, while PSG boosted their Ligue 1 title hopes with a 3-1 win over Metz on Saturday.

Some of football's most exciting talents and seasoned professionals will be strutting their stuff at the Parc des Princes this week, and with that in mind, Sports Mole picks a combined XI from both squads, using only players expected to be available for the showdown.

Combined XI: PSG vs. MNC

Two of the game's finest shot-stoppers in Ederson and Keylor Navas will act as the last lines of defence at the Parc des Princes, with the former playing his part in 23 clean sheets across all competitions this season, including six in the Champions League. Navas - a three-time Champions League winner - boasts 17 shut-outs, but the 34-year-old has proved his worth countless times this season and saved a penalty from none other than Lionel Messi in the last 16, so the PSG goalkeeper just edges out his counterpart.

Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo seem destined to do battle for the right-back spot in Guardiola's setup this week - as they have done all season - but the latter has established himself as an integral cog in the well-oiled City machine after initially struggling to adapt to life in England, so Cancelo gets the nod on the right. The Portugal international may very well feature on the left this week, but that role is filled by Abdou Diallo, who has garnered plenty of praise since switching to a wide position and should shake off a calf issue in time to feature.

It seems laughable to leave both John Stones and Aymeric Laporte out of the team, but with PSG's inspirational leader Marquinhos expected to recover from a groin problem for the first leg, he simply walks into the combined XI after donning the captain's armband with panache. However, City are represented in the backline by the ever-present Ruben Dias, who has taken no time at all to settle into life in the Premier League and should collect a deserved winners' medal next month, with Presnel Kimpembe just missing out.

Rodri was only given a run-out as a substitute in the EFL Cup final but should displace Fernandinho to provide some midfield stability at the Parc des Princes, and the Spaniard also beats his teammate - as well as PSG duo Idrissa Gueye and Leandro Paredes - to the spot in the number six role.

Marco Verratti has not hit his usual high standards this season - although he has not been helped by a wave of injuries and coronavirus - and he will be more determined than ever to assert his creative dominance in his new number 10 role under Pochettino. It was extremely difficult to leave Ilkay Gundogan out of the team, but Verratti so often influences PSG victories without chalking up any goals or assists and he just edges out the German.

The final spot in the midfield could only be filled by Kevin De Bruyne, who made a rapid return from injury in time to lift the EFL Cup at the weekend. De Bruyne probably still appears in the nightmares of PSG supporters after scoring in both fixtures against them during the 2015-16 Champions League group stage, and with the Belgian boasting eight goal contributions from his last seven knockout games, he walks into the team over Bernardo Silva, Julian Draxler and Rafinha - the latter of whom may miss out through injury anyway.

A City-dominated right-hand side of the pitch concludes with a player who is labelled as a generational talent by many. Phil Foden has made headlines off the pitch for the wrong reasons this season, but the 20-year-old's on-field exploits cannot be questioned after he scored a sensational winner against Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion. Foden features on the left more often than not these days, but he is equally capable of producing the goods on the right, with four goals and two assists from six games on that side since January 2020.

Meanwhile, PSG's left-sided representatives continue with none other than Neymar - still being linked with a move away - after he troubled Bayern's defenders all evening long in the second leg but did not get the goal that his efforts warranted. The Brazilian has spent quite a bit of time on the sidelines this term, but 14 goals and nine assists from 24 appearances is a remarkable return nonetheless, and he beats the underperforming Raheem Sterling to a spot in attack.

Sergio Aguero would love nothing more than to end his glittering 10-year stint at Man City with a Champions League medal around his neck, but the Argentine has been hampered by injuries all season and has a paltry three goals to his name. While Aguero has struggled to maintain full fitness, Kylian Mbappe is constantly raising the bar higher with 47 goal contributions (37 goals, 10 assists) from 42 games this term, and the Frenchman should overcome an injury scare in time to test City's defensive resolve to the maximum on Wednesday night.

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