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Combined European Championship XI

Friday 27th May 2016
The European Championships in France are just two weeks away and fans and players are gearing up for a summer packed with the unpredictability of knock-out football. With the goals, saves and outrageous decisions will come glory and despair. Underdogs will rise and favourites will fall with a place in history beckoning for the victor.

From club form this year, we take a look at the best possible starting XI and what would they bring to a European Championship team. Here, we evaluate the side and the reasons why they have been chosen. The formation that has been chosen is the 4-2-2-2, a slight variation of the classic 4-4-2.

Manuel Neuer

The Bayern Munich goalkeeper has been the stand alone choice for so many years when it comes to a European or Champions League XI. His reflexes and commanding presence are second to none while his ability to read a game is of huge benefit to any team he plays for. Since his move from Schalke, Neuer has continued to grow as a goalkeeper with many regarding him as one of the best goalkeepers of the last two decades.

What makes him a more viable choice than the likes of David de Gea and Joe Hart in goal is his ability as a sweeper. His ability to clean up behind the defence or take the ball in a pressure situation and still find his target takes so much pressure off his defenders, allowing them to focus on their own game without needing to worry about having to cover for a goalkeeper that is unsure with the ball at his feet. Neuer was part of the Bayern Munich team that conceded a mere 17 goals this season at a rate of half a goal per game, an incredible stat that further reinforces the decision to make him first choice goalkeeper.

David Alaba, Mats Hummels, Toby Alderweireld and Juanfran

There is blend of pace and experience in the full backs for the team. At 31, Juanfran has seen it all and has become a fixture in an Atletico team that refuses to quit. His work rate and defensive ability has seen him become one of the most consistent defenders in the game, while his experience is invaluable with his knowledge of how to deal with players and how to win games vital to his team.

David Alaba, on the other hand is a youthful and talented left back that is as difficult to get past as he is to stop when going forward. His raw pace frightens defenders while it also aids him hugely when he is tracking back or making a last ditch tackle in front of goal. What makes him even more valuable is the fact he has been played as an auxiliary centre-back this season due to injuries. Versatility is a key attribute for players in the modern games and, with the talent and technique Alaba possesses, he is able to play anywhere in the back four and on the wing for his team.

The two centre-backs both fit into the style that Manuel Neuer brings to a team. Both Alderweireld and Hummels are very comfortable on the ball and are competent passers that don't crack easily under pressure. Alderweireld only conceded 35 goals in 38 league games with five coming on the last day against Newcastle when they were chasing the game while Hummels and Borussia Dortmund conceded just 34 times across 34 games. While there are centre-backs who have conceded less this season, the two aforementioned are also very close to being the complete centre-backs. Their ability in the air is undoubted along with the presence in the box, while their tactical awareness is superb enabling them to nullify many attacks before they can begin.

Paul Pogba and Sergio Busquets

Paul Pogba is one of the very few things that Sir Alex Ferguson probably regrets from his time at Manchester United. Since leaving Manchester, the French midfielder has matured into one of the World's most sought after and talented young players. His strength and aerial ability make him vital in defensive situations while his passing range and dribbling would be a key focal point in any team's attack. What makes him so special is the fact that he is so talented at such a young age. 12 assists and eight goals in the league this season are a solid output for a player that will only get better.

Busquets is the perfect foil for Pogba in this team. The defensive Spaniard is a master of suffocating attacks before they are allowed to get up ahead of steam. Away from the goal scoring exploits of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, it is Busquets that has been one of the most influential players with his passing and clever touches able to buy both himself, and his teammates, valuable time and space. The fact he has only managed six assists across all competitions this season tells the story of what Busquets provides for his team. He is not a flashy player that consistently finds himself in goal scoring positions, he is one that goes about his business quietly and does much of his work behind the scenes. It is this tireless and unselfish work ethic that has made Barcelona so successful recently.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale

Two of the most explosive wingers to have played in the modern game. Cristiano Ronaldo has been described by many as the World's best player and one of, if not the best footballer ever. While many cite that Ronaldo is not as fast as he once was, the Portuguese has been able to compensate for this by becoming even more clinical in front of goal while his mazy runs and mind bending skills still giving even the best defenders nightmares. While he is playing as a left midfielder in this team, he has become irreplaceable as both a striker and winger for Real Madrid and will surely have a huge part to play should Portugal progress in the competition.

Gareth Bale is the main reason Wales are going to the Euros this year. That is not a slight against Wales either. In a team that boasts the talents of Aaron Ramsey, Ashley Williams and Ben Davies, it has still been Bale's goals and performances that have taken Wales so far. He was the catalyst for their huge jump up the World rankings as they even superseded England at one point. The Real Madrid winger is a potent attacking threat with his speed and strength making him so difficult to stop. His long-range shooting and ability to finish with his feet or head have been invaluable for Wales while his ability from set pieces is superb. It has been another strong club season for Bale, scoring 19 goals and gaining 10 assists this season, but at Madrid, he still plays second fiddle to Ronaldo. This is not the case at Wales as, at every opportunity, his teammates look to get him on the ball. As Bale is very much a confidence player, being the main focal point of the  attack for Wales is exactly where Bale needs to be to thrive and he has done exactly that, scoring seven goals in qualifying and taking Wales to a first major tournament since the World Cup in Sweden in 1958.

Robert Lewandowski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Two of the World's top four strikers grace this team's attacking line. There is a blend of clinical finishing and creativity here which many strikers are bereft of. Both aspects were shown in Lewandowski's superb drag back and rifled finish in the 2013 Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid while you don't have to look very hard to find a piece of incredible creativity from Ibrahimovic. Had this been a World's XI, then these two would be fighting a very interesting and tight battle with Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero for the two spots available.

Lewandowski adds an eye for goal and the ability to be in the right place at the right time. Equally as adept at finishing from close range as he is from distance, the Polish striker will be the main focal point of Poland's attack. For anyone that would call into question his place in the team, 30 goals in 29 league games will silence any doubts about his ability.

Ibrahimovic is a modern day artist on the pitch. His finishing is one of his strongest attributes while his ability to improvise is astounding with his thunderous volleys, outrageous flicks and dazzling skills lighting up Europe for years. Not one to shy away from the limelight, the Swede thrives on pressure with his penalties and free-kicks two of his strongest features. Ibrahimovic has also scored 38 goals in the league while he has assisted 13 times in 29 games.

The Bench

David de Gea

De Gea is a fine goalkeeper and will continue to grow into the World's best. However, Neuer's ability to sweep edges de Gea out here with both goalkeeper's almost perfectly matched in their incredible ability.

Vincent Kompany

When unhindered by injury, Kompany is one of the World's best defenders. A natural leader and a strong player on and off the ball. Had he been fully fit all season then he would probably be in the starting line-up.

David Silva

One of the most technically gifted players in the game today. His ability to play defence-unlocking passes and his deft touches would make him an incredible addition to any side.

Luka Modric

A player in the same mould as Silva. Modric is an intelligent player that can put a player in space with his passing or use his quick feet to find it himself. His ability on the ball has only been enhanced further through playing with Ronaldo, a player that craves perfection in not only his finishing, but also in the pass that puts him in on goal.

Harry Kane

England's golden boy. Kane has enjoyed yet another fine season for Tottenham and won the golden boot scoring 25 goals this season. His blend of power, strength and finishing make him a potent threat in front of goal.

Antoine Griezmann

It is incredibly difficult for a player to ply his trade and gain a huge amount of recognition in a side that is devoted to the good of the team with no individual more important than the collective. However, the Frenchman is doing a good job of it. Unselfish and hardworking, Griezmann has been a superb attacking outlet for Atletico Madrid and his pace and finishing earn him a place on the bench.
Ben Darvill

I graduated with an upper second class degree in English and Creative writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. I have been a freelance sports writer since leaving University and have written for a number of online websites. I am a Chelsea and England fan but I enjoy watching any team play as I have an intense passion for football.

Total articles: 137

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