LONDON: Manchester City and Liverpool’s battle for Premier League supremacy has seen them dominate the Professional Footballers’ Association top-flight Team of the Year 2019.
England forward Raheem Sterling is among six City representatives while fellow Britons Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are two of four inclusions from Liverpool.
However, Mohamed Salah is not among that number while Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard is also a surprise omission, despite being on the six-man shortlist for the Players’ Player of the Year award.
The major surprise is the inclusion of Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba by his fellow players. He is the only player from outside the Liverpool/City duo.
City’s attacking options have been at the heart of their title defence and Sergio Aguero has once again led the line with aplomb.
The Argentinian, currently the joint top-scorer in the league alongside Salah and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on 19 goals this season, is the only player to retain his position in the PFA side from 12 months ago.
Aguero has edged out – among others – Harry Kane, who is absent from the list for the first time in five seasons.
Raheem Sterling makes his first appearance in the PFA XI to supplement Aguero in attack, having found the net 17 times and provided 10 assists, while Liverpool’s Sadio Mane – with 18 goals so far this term – completes the forward line.
The front trio are all in contention for the Players’ Player award – as is Bernardo Silva, who has earned rave reviews for his performances in City’s midfield.
The Portuguese and tenacious City team-mate Fernandinho take their spots in the centre of the park, as does Pogba, despite some lacklustre displays in United’s recent dip in form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Aymeric Laporte, who signed for City in January 2018 for a then club record fee of £57million, breaks up the Liverpool hegemony in the back four.
Virgil Van Dijk, who joined Liverpool in a record £75m transfer in the same month Laporte completed his move to City, has been a reassuring and instrumental presence in the Reds’ back line.
The Dutchman will be a strong contender to win the Players’ Player award and he partners Laporte at centre-back, with Alexander-Arnold and Robertson occupying the full-back berths.
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker has conceded two fewer goals and kept two more clean sheets than City counterpart and Brazilian compatriot Ederson.
But it is Ederson who takes the number one jersey with the PFA, which will honour the players at its annual awards ceremony in London on Sunday, April 28.
Goalkeeper: Ederson (Manchester City)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool), Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Forwards: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Sadio Mane (Liverpool).