Combined Liverpool - Everton XI: No Mignolet, Johnson or Barkley

Ahead of the upcoming Merseyside derby at Anfield, HITC Sport looks at the ultimate Liverpool & Everton combined XI.

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard

The first position to evaluate - and it's already a tough choice. Both Simon Mignolet and Howard have the quality to command a first-team place in a top-four chasing side, though neither are infallible. Mignolet, for his part, has been erratic at times for Liverpool, while Howard, too, has made mistakes - notably his sending off against Sunderland. Based on his years of experience, however, and nine clean sheets to six - Howard gets the nod.

Left-back: Leighton Baines

No contest here. Jose Enrique is a quality full-back for the Reds but, even then, he is injured right now. And if he wasn't? Still Baines.

Centre-back: Phil Jagielka

The third Everton player out of three, Jagielka has, like Baines, won his personal duel by a mile. The 31-year-old has been consistently brilliant this season - and for many years in fact - even holding down a regular place at international level. For all the combined strengths of Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure, Jagielka gets the nod ahead of all three.

Centre-back: Martin Skrtel

The first Liverpool player to make the XI, Skrtel has delivered time and again this season. Like the rest of his counterparts, he has been far from perfect, with a particular flaw of his existing in defending set-pieces. Nevertheless, the fact that he is even still at Anfield is testament to his form, with the Reds having looked into selling him in the past. Perhaps a younger Sylvain Distin would have had more of a chance.

Right-back: Seamus Coleman

Another close call: Coleman edges Glen Johnson out due to his sublime form this season. Going forward, there are few better than England international Johnson, though Coleman is even running him close in that department. The Liverpool man's weaknesses tracking back do him no favours in this category, while 25-year-old Coleman could become world-class with time.

Defensive midfielder: Gareth Barry

In a straight swap between Lucas and Barry, it's anyone's call. The Manchester City man has been a revelation since joining Everton on loan, however, and protects his back four while also offering a threat with his passing. Lucas, for his importance at Anfield, perhaps offers less on the ball.

Central midfielder: Steven Gerrard

No questions here. The England and Liverpool captain has been instrumental to any success his club and country have achieved in recent years, while Everton have not come close to producing a midfielder anywhere near as good as him. Makes this team based on his capabilities going forward, however, not in a holding position.

Central midfielder: Jordan Henderson

Running himself ragged yet again this season, Henderson gets the nod ahead of a wealth of other candidates - notably Ross Barkley. A key stat to consider is that, in 19 Premier League games, Barkley has three goals to his name but no assists. Henderson has one goal - but six assists, proving his immense utility to Liverpool. At the same time, the 23-year-old can play in defensive or attacking midfield and out wide, displaying an incredible engine and work rate every game.

Winger/forward: Daniel Sturridge

Eleven goals and three assists in 14 games says it all for Sturridge. No one was ever going to leave him out of this one.

Striker: Romelu Lukaku

Perhaps the most controversial of the choices up front (it would have been quite easy to go with a SAS combination and use an extra midfielder) Lukaku's goal tally for the season means he just can't be ignored. Though not as prolific as Sturridge, nine goals in 20 games is nothing to be sniffed at, while his five assists are especially impressive. Incredibly strong and imposing up front, Lukaku offers a different type of threat up front - something Liverpool saw when they faced the Toffees at Goodison Park.

Winger/forward: Luis Suarez

The first name on the teamsheet, for reasons that don't need explaining.

image: © ekilby

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