To build up to tonight’s epic Champions League ties between four powerhouses of European football we’ve had a look at the ultimate combined XI from Arsenal, Barcelona, Juventus & Bayern Munich based on statistics. Do you agree with our team? Who would make your ultimate XI? Tweet us @Copa90 using #CopaXI
The first choice is by no means the easiest, as our goalkeeper shortlist features three of the best goalkeepers of all time. Surprisingly, it’s Petr Cech who takes the starting eleven spot over legends Buffon and Neuer. Cech has the most appearances (110 compared to 102 for Buffon and 78 for Neuer) the most clean sheets (46 for Cech, 37 for Buffon, 32 for Neuer). Cech’s also been nominated for the Team of the Year (TOY) 8 times, winning once and also has one Champions League to his name.
Although Buffon has more appearances than Neuer, more nominations and appearances in the TOY, the German has a much better clean sheet rate at 42% compared to Buffon’s 36% and has also won the Champions League. Neuer’s on the bench.
Since clean sheet data is difficult to access for defenders, we’ve based our decisions mainly on appearances, TOY inclusions and nominations, and trophy wins.
Lahm was a no-brainer. Second most experienced defender in our shortlist with 101 appearances, the guy also has 10 TOY nomination and 5 features, he’s made three finals and lifted the trophy once. He’s in.
Pique is also an easy choice: 5 TOY nominations, 3 inclusions and 2 Champions Leagues (more than any other shortlisted defender). As a bonus, he also scores a lot in the competition: with 10 goals to his name, that’s a goal every 8 games, not bad for a centre half.
Alaba, Evra and Dani Alves are left to play it out for the remaining full back role. Evra has the most appearances (103) and Alaba the least (only 46). However, the young Austrian has really made the best of his time on the pitch, making the TOY twice, reaching two finals and winning one. On top of this, he’s also chips in going forward with 5 goals and 5 assists (one goal contribution every 4.6 games!). Alaba in. That leaves the two golden oldies to battle it out for a spot on the bench: the Frenchman has been in four finals and as many TOY nominations, but has only delivered once on each, whereas Alves has been in the TOY three times and is also a great offensive option with 7 goals and 13 assists. Sorry Patrice, Dani has to be in there.
We need another centre half and it’s head to head between Chiellini and Mascherano. The Argentine has won the trophy, the Italian hasn’t. But the Argentine also has nearly twice as many appearances, and fewer nominations for the TOY. Make yourself comfortable on the bench, Javier.
Possibly the most difficult choice here, given a long shortlist full of incredible talent. Let’s start from the untouchables: Iniesta has won the competition 3 times, and is also a regular member of the TOY, having made the cut 4 times plus one near miss. He’s definitely in. As is Muller: although he’s never made the TOY and only lifted the trophy once, he has scored in 43% of his 76 appearances, which makes him as incisive as midfielders get.
Given the offensive nature of our first two midfielders, we need third with more defensive quality. How about Pogba? 30 appearances, 1 goal and 8 assists (27% assist rate, second only to Ozil’s 28%). And in that time he’s had two TOY nominations and he’s already played a final… in only 30 games. That’s enough to earn him a spot in our starting eleven.
For the bench we’ve picked Ozil and Robben: we’ve already mentioned the German’s passing ability which has earned him 2 TOY apps out of 5 nominations. Robben also makes the cut because he’s the most nominated midfielder for the TOY: 7 nominations, two appearances.
Special mention: 19 year old Kingsley Coman has only played 6 games in the Champions League so far, too little to be a reliable candidate. He gets a special mention nonetheless for his 4 assists and 1 goal. If that’s not enough, his team reached the final of the first edition he played in. This kid’s destined for glory.
Lionel Messi: 103 apps, 80 goals, 20 assists… That means he contributes to a goal in 97% of UCL games he’s in!! There’s more: he’s won it 4 times, he’s never lost a final, he’s been in the TOY 6 times and mossed out a further 3, he’s been the Best Player in Europe once and just missed out twice, and he’s been top goalscorer of the competition 4 times… All hail.
Neymar: only 27 appearances and he’s already won it once, scoring in the final. He’s scored 16 and assisted 8, contributing to a goal in 89% of games. He takes the wing opposite the Messiah.
Time to pick our number 9 and we’re faced with a very tough choice: Lewandowski or Suarez? Nothing at all to pick between them in terms of goals per appearance (both 65%) and assists per appearance (both 19%). Lewandowski has nearly twice as many appearances, but has 3 TOY nominations to Suarez’s one. Lewandowski has never won the trophy, Suarez has. After a long period of head scratching, we’ve decided to favour the Bayern Munich star, partly due to his recent form, partly due to the fact that he’s less likely to get sent off for nibbling on an opponent’s arm… small margins.
Last spot on the bench goes to Mandzukic. This might come as a surprise, but the Croat giant – although not comparable to the four aforementioned aliens – has an excellent Champions League record having scored 20 in 47 appearances, and having lifted the cup at Bayern.
No need for stats here, it’s Pep Guardiola.