Chelsea start off their crucial run of games with Manchester United at home. The combined XI pulls pretty evenly from the two sides.
Chelsea are six points ahead of Manchester United, so this game is not quite a six-pointer. But the European spots are starting to get pretty congested, and both teams could end up in the Europa League as easily as the Blues go the Champions League and United misses out on Europe entirely.
Goalkeeper: David De Gea, Manchester United
Let’s be honest, Kepa Arrizabalaga isn’t quite in the same league as David De Gea. Obviously, they both play in the Premier League, but De Gea has way more Premier League experience and is genuinely in his prime years, and is simply overall a better goalkeeper right now.
Arrizabalaga needs to get it together. He is 25 years old and, yes, goalkeepers hit their prime a little later and can still be improving into their early 30’s. The Blues have decisions to make over the next few months and this summer, but my mind is made up: De Gea starts over his fellow countryman.
Right back: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Manchester United
AWB, for short, because who wants to spell that name out a bunch of times, is just a bit more polished than Reece James. I have no doubt that James will surpass AWB on the talent list in the near future. He’s just not there yet.
AWB’s play on the defensive side of the ball gets him the selection. James can bang a cross in with the best of them, but he can also be a little too relaxed with the ball in his own third. AWB until James logs the time to hone his skills.
Center back: Harry Maguire, Manchester United
Harry Maguire is not particularly impressive. Rafael van der Vaart summed it up when he said “If I am going to play with the amateurs on Sunday afternoon, I can easily find three who can do this. I mean that seriously.” But here he is, starting in this combined XI, mostly because neither team has any good center backs.
Center back: Kurt Zouma, Chelsea
Again, not much to choose from, but Kurt Zouma has been Chelsea’s most consistent defender. Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have been too up and down throughout the season, and Victor Lindelof is a joke. But Zouma is good, if not great, at most things he does.
Left back: Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea
If Azpilicueta can move over to the left to accommodate Reece James from time to time, then it’s no problem if he’s moved for Aaron Wan-Bissaka (that is, AWB).
The Chelsea captain has been a staple in the Blues’ lineup for the longest time, and is still the most reliable player in the XI hands down. His defense gets him the start because the next two are a bit shaky, at best.