With Barcelona holding a 2-1 advantage from the first leg of this Copa del Rey quarterfinal-cum-Clasico, Real Madrid are going to have to change things up a little bit. Jose Mourinho's team looked reasonably effective pursuing a counterattacking strategy at the Santiago Bernabeu before Carles Puyol managed to get Barcelona back into the game with a set-piece goal, but with Madrid probably needing to score at least twice, they're going to have to commit to opening things up and trying to put their hosts under real pressure.
The team should try to reproduce the 4-2-3-1 formation that they used against FC Barcelona last August in the Supercup games. In those two matches Madrid drew one and lost another, but the team proved that they were able to score against Barcelona.
Last week's formation couldn't stop Barcelona's possession game... Mourinho's plan worked until Barcelona scored their first goal off a set piece. When that happened, Real Madrid was forced to introduce offensive substitutions and the team was already caught in Barcelona's trap (playing the style Barcelona wants them to play).
Unfortunately for Mourinho and company, that's just the sort of style that Barcelona are primed to exploit. Opening up the match lets Pep Guardiola's stunning array of attacking talent into all the space they'll need to rip Madrid apart and deal a crushing blow to the La Liga leaders. Barca Blaugranes offers the obvious response:
To bypass [the 4-2-3-1] Barcelona can do one of two things: either shift back to the 4-3-3 with Dani Alves and Gerard Pique the two "fulcrums" responsible for the safe distribution of the ball to the midfield men, or operate in the 3-4-3, with Sergio Busquets dropping temporarily deeper to aid Gerard Pique, and draw Mesut Ozil away from the middle of the park, ready for the two "wide" centre-backs to push in, and allow Xavi and Iniesta the space on the wing to receive the ball from a long pass. Having bypassed that initial line of pressure, there will be acres of space in the middle of the field, ripe for exploitation.
It's a dilemma. However, things might not be as dire as they seem for Madrid. Barcelona might have a brilliant set of forwards, but their main strength comes from their ability to keep the ball, and quite a lot of that is to do with fear. When teams have gone out and attacked them this season, the Barca machine has looked slightly wobbly, even faltered a couple of times. Then again... well, teams go defensive against the Catalans for a reason. No matter what, I wouldn't want to be in Mourinho's shoes for this one.