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Ranking the best centre-back partnerships in the Premier League right now

Successful sides are built on a solid foundation, but who are the Premier League’s best centre-back partnerships right now?

An ideal defensive duo will have complimentary qualities and an elite understanding of each other’s game, ready to cover their partners whenever required.

Here, we rank the best centre-back partnerships in the Premier League right now.

5. Ezri Konsa and Pau Torres (Aston Villa)

Aston Villa’s surprise push for Champions League football has been one of the stories of the season, with Unai Emery’s team in title contention as we reach the end of January.

Villa have the fourth-best defensive record in the Premier League this season, in large part thanks to the performances of goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and centre-back pairing Ezri Konsa and Pau Torres.

The arrival of the latter was viewed as a considerable coup in the summer as Villa landed a defender who had been linked with Europe’s elite. Emery had worked with Torres at Villarreal, winning the Europa League in 2021 and reaching the Champions League’s last four the following season. The Spaniard’s carry in possession has been a feature of Villa’s game with only one player in Europe’s top five leagues having carried possession further than Torres this season.

He has formed a solid understanding with Ezri Konsa, who has produced the best football of his Villa career this season. The 26-year-old earned a maiden England call-up in November and leads Europe’s major leagues for percentage of duels won in 2023/24.

4. Cristian Romero and Micky van de Ven (Tottenham)

Arguably the centre-back pairing with the most exciting ceiling in the Premier League. Spurs signed Micky van de Ven from Wolfsburg in the summer and the Dutch defender has been an instant hit in North London.

The 22-year-old combines rapid recovery pace with power and purpose in possession, leading the Premier League for pass completion percentage (94.8%) this season. Van de Ven’s attributes are an ideal match for Cristian Romero, who is a firm favourite at Spurs for his full-blooded commitment.

Romero’s aggression in duels can be a little over-zealous at times, but with refinement, the World Cup winner can be an elite option.

Given neither player has reached their peak and their partnership is still in its infancy, there’s reason for huge optimism at Spurs.

3. William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhães (Arsenal)

The very best make defending look easy and William Saliba does that better than most. There’s an effortlessness to Saliba’s work, the sort of defensive comfort that leads to regular Rolls-Royce shouts.

The France international has cemented himself as one of the best in the division since returning to Arsenal from a series of loan spells, earning inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year last season. This season, Saliba leads Europe’s top five leagues for percentage of dribblers tackled (92.9%).

Alongside him, Gabriel continues to be an unsung hero of Mikel Arteta’s squad. The big Brazilian is calm in possession and commanding in the air, having scored 13 goals in all competitions in three-and-a-half seasons in North London. Their partnership has an ideal blend of power and poise.

2. Ruben Dias and John Stones (Manchester City)

Ruben Dias and John Stones would have topped these rankings comfortably last season, but Manchester City’s first-choice duo have struggled to recapture those heights this time around.

Dias’ form has come under question during the current campaign, while Stones has been plagued with fitness issues and has made just five Premier League starts. When fit, however, the Citizens boast a centre-back partnership with elite class.

Dias is the general of the side and combines a body-on-the-line brand of defending with confidence in possession, while Stones’ comfortability on the ball has allowed the England international to push forward into midfield and help the Citizens take control of games. A defensive duo of steel and silk that Pep Guardiola needs fit and firing during the run-in.

1. Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

Liverpool boast the best defensive record in the Premier League this season with Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk central to that record.

The latter has bounced back from a dip last season to reestablish himself as arguably the best in world football once again. Van Dijk tops the Premier League for aerial duels won (85) and has won 81% of all his contested aerial duels during the current campaign.

The Netherlands international has thrived amid the responsibility of the Liverpool captaincy this season, with his performances helping Jurgen Klopp’s team to the top of the table.

Alongside him, Ibrahima Konate has grown this season. The Frenchman is a formidable physical presence and rapidly approaching an elite level.

The trust that Liverpool have in the Konate-Van Dijk axis allows the Reds to commit men forward and overload in attacking areas, with confidence that the defensive duo can cope with any one-vs-one battle – or foot race – on the counter.

Read – Four free transfers thriving in Europe’s top five leagues this season

See more – Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

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