NOTE: Turkish, Greek, Portuguese, and other leagues outside the top five not included.
Regional dominance is always at stake when these teams meet, but who would feature in a combined starting lineup?
Manchester Derby (4 United, 7 City)
Defense: Chris Smalling has been one of the Premier League’s most reliable central defenders this season, and he’s partnered by Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany, who remains his team’s best center back despite recent purchases. With Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, and Antonio Valencia injured and Matteo Darmian hitting a bit of a rough patch, City’s two fullbacks also make it into the team.
Midfield: Yaya is the most talented of the bunch, but Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin, and Herrera all have cases to join in him in the side. I went with the World Cup winner because I’ve yet to see Herrera and Schneiderlin impress enough to overtake him, but that may change soon. The wide attacking midfielders are definitely De Bruyne and Silva; in fact, their only real competition is teammate Raheem Sterling due to the lackluster form of Juan Mata and Memphis.
Attack: The striker duo is made up of Kun Aguero, one of the world’s top center forwards, and… Anthony Martial! Wayne Rooney may still be the main man at United but the Frenchman has been more exciting this season and will soon lead the line for the Red Devils. You also figure that Martial’s pace and ability to run in behind a defense would mesh well with Aguero’s craftiness.
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart is solid, but David de Gea has been at another level over the past two seasons. The Spaniard is one of the world’s best.
Madrid Derby (5 Atletico, 6 Real)
Defense: Marcelo’s attacking flair gives him a slight edge over the reliable Filipe Luis at left back, while the consistency of Juanfran puts him in over Dani Carvajal. Diego Godin is arguably the best center back in the world, while Sergio Ramos is the best on Real and edges Jose Gimenez on experience.
Midfield: Luka Modric is one of the smartest midfielders in Europe; he makes Real Madrid tick more than anyone. Koke gets in over Toni Kroos because he is a more complete player; a true box-to-box midfielder, Koke puts in hard challenges at one end and is exceedingly creative at the other. James plays in the hole in our combined XI; his ingenuity surpasses that of any other player who could fill the role.
Attack: Atletico don’t have star wingers so Bale and Ronaldo are easy inclusions, while I choose Antoine Griezmann to feature centrally because of his stunning goalscoring record for Los Colchoneros. He is also versatile, meaning he can drift out wide to allow one of those Los Blancos to make one of their usual darting runs to the inside.
Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas has been a revelation for Real Madrid since the failed De Gea transfer, but Jan Oblak is possibly the most underrated shot-stopper in the world. He’s allowed just 8 league goals this year, best among Europe’s top five leagues. The 23-year old Slovenian is only getting better and consistently makes top-quality saves for Atleti.
Revierderby (8 Dortmund, 3 Schalke)
Defense: Marcel Schmelzer remains a Dortmund mainstay and Matthias Ginter has played his way into Thomas Tuchel’s first-choice lineup. Hummels makes mistakes but he’s still a very good defender. Matip has stepped up and eclipsed captain Benedikt Howedes as Schalke’s top center half, boasting impressive aerial prowess and loads of pace.
Midfield: The Royal Blues’ Geis is partnered with Dortmund’s Gundogan at the base of this midfield triangle. Geis is typically unheralded, combining defensive solidity with tidy and creative passing. Gundogan is a box-to-box force known for brilliant forward balls (a la Michael Carrick) and well-timed runs into the box. The midfield will be spearheaded by Mkhitaryan, with the Armenian bagging 15 goals and 12 assists in all competitions.
Attack: Reus is an obvious choice as one of the Bundesliga’s most dangerous attackers. The 20-year old Sane, who scored a beauty in Schalke’s 4-3 win at the Bernabeu last season, has continued to dazzle this season. The lightning-quick Aubameyang just edges out the experienced Huntelaar with 27 goals in 27 games this season.
Goalkeeper: Burki, signed from Freiburg this summer, has replaced Weidenfeller in Dortmund’s goal, performing well for Tuchel’s side.
North London Derby (4 Tottenham, 7 Arsenal)
Defense: Bellerin has taken his game to a new level this season while Nacho has simply outplayed Ben Davies. Koscielny remains a rock in the Gunners’ defense, and Alderweireld has slotted in seamlessly next to Jan Vertonghen, even outplaying his fellow countryman.
Midfield: Eric Dier has been a revelation, with the 22-year old converting surprisingly well to a holding midfield role. His passing has been tidy, his runs smart, and his marking tight. Cazorla would be his creative partner, with the Spaniard continuing to impress. Mesut Ozil is a no-brainer for the CAM spot with 16 league assists already.
Attack: Eriksen isn’t a natural winger but neither is Ramsey and Walcott/Oxlade-Chamberlain haven’t been too impressive. Lamela has improved for Spurs but the Dane is still their creative talisman. Alexis is Arsenal’s heart and soul, scoring and creating when fit enough to do so.
Goalkeeper: Tough one here, but Cech edges out Lloris thanks to a run of brilliant performances. These are the points John Terry was talking about.
Merseyside Derby (5 Everton, 6 Liverpool)
Defense: Everton’s left back situation isn’t great, earning the improved Moreno a spot. Coleman edges out Clyne on the right due to consistency. John Stones is the clear-cut first-choice center back here while Skrtel is still Liverpool’s top man.
Midfield: Can has repaid Klopp’s faith and shown the potential that earned him a move to Anfield in the first place. Ross Barkley is one of Everton’s stars, with six goals and seven assists in the league. The wide midfielders include the creative Coutinho, a constant source of magical moments and frustrating ones too, and former Barcelona man Gerard Deulofeu; the Spaniard has 9 assists for the Toffees already.
Attack: Romelo Lukaku and his Premier League-leading 15 goals are preferred to the out-of-favor Christian Benteke. He is supported by second striker Roberto Firmino, whose well-taken brace against Arsenal showed his incredible potential.
Goalkeeper: Mignolet has been better than either of Everton’s keeper this season, even if the Kop would like to see Jack Butland at Anfield.
Rome Derby (8 Roma, 3 Lazio)
Defense: PSG loanee Lucas Digne has made the left back spot his own for the Giallorossi. Florenzi may be a natural midfielder but he’s deputised well at right back, scoring that Puskas nominee against Barca from that position. Lazio’s Mauricio has been a rock in an otherwise leaky defense, while Kostas Manolas regularly covers for his fellow center halves.
Midfield: The two deeper-lying midfielders are Daniele de Rossi and Lucas Biglia. De Rossi continues to be a force in the center of the park, breaking up counter-attacks and starting forward moves with aplomb. The Argentine Biglia is as tidy and clean as ever, minding his defensive duties diligently while helping transition quickly from defense to attack. The attacking midfield role is taken up by Miralem Pjanic, whose free kicks and threaded passes haven’t gone unnoticed by the likes of Madrid and Barcelona.
Attack: Last year’s front three for Lazio propelled them into a Champions League spot, but only Felipe Anderson has continued that form this year. Candreva has struggled and is edged by Salah, while summer signing Edin Dzeko surpasses the invisible Klose.
Goalkeeper: Szczesny the clear choice here. Stronger pedigree and has made numerous stunning saves despite looking shaky at times.
Milan Derby (7 Inter, 4 Milan)
Defense: Inter’s center halves, Murillo and former Atletico man Miranda, have been stalwarts this season, as the Nerazzurri have conceded a league-low 13 goals this season. Galatasaray loanee Alex Telles has impressed for Inter as well while AC Milan’s Ignazio Abate gets into our team over any of Inter’s options.
Midfield: Kondogbia is in the team over Medel due to being a more complete midfielder; while equally strong in defense, the Frenchman can shoot from distance, pick out passes more consistently, and provide a threat from set pieces. Milan mainstay Riccardo Montolivo partners him in the middle due to his positioning and versatility.
Attack: This South American strike duo would scare opposing defenses, with 17 goals between them in Serie A. Neither is particularly gifted with passing or pace but they are ruthless finishers and smart footballers. Bonaventura and Jovetic, both 26 years of age, have differing styles this season but are both gifted attackers. Jovetic is a scoring winger with silky skills while Bonaventura has showed his creativity and verstaility time and time again.
Goalkeeper: Handanovic is one of Europe’s top keepers and easily makes it in over Milan’s 16-year old Gianluigi Donnarumma.