Barcelona have been about as close to a tailspin as is possible since their 2-0 loss to AC MIlan in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie. Two losses to Real Madrid and less than stellar league performances (in general) have create a real sense of doubt about the team's ability to overcome the deficit today and advance to the next round.
The highly intelligent individuals at Barca Blaugranes, our Barcelona blog, have offered up their opinions about Tito Vilanova and Jordi Roura's formation options ahead of today's match.
There are really only two options: 4-3-3 or 3-4-3. With the 4-3-3, Barca will still have three forwards and plenty of chances to score, but a 3-4-3 gives maximum attacking options with an extra offensive midfielder instead of a fullback, However, the 3-4-3 carries more risk of conceding.
Both options are intriguing but my first reaction to a 3-4-3 is of course a concern for Barca's defense and their propensity to concede goals.
The 3-4-3 could potentially liberate Messi and give him a chance to pull the strings with his sharp passing, but Milan's counter attack could leave Barca's three-man line exposed.
My personal feeling is that Barcelona will start the game in a 4-3-3 formation and try to get an early goal. If the score remains 2-0 going into halftime, that would be the likely time for Roura to make an adjustment and go with a more aggressive formation. Starting in a 3-4-3 would take some stones, so to speak, and would draw some serious backlash if Milan were able to exploit the formation and score a goal.
On the flip-side, making a change that allowed Messi to play slightly deeper and have someone ahead of him to work off could make a huge difference in breaking down Milan's defense. It would also allow Andres Iniesta to play a more normal midfield role, rather than being push forward on the wing to create room for Cesc Fabregas in the midfield.
Whatever the choice that Barcelona's coaching staff makes, it's going to be an interesting day at the Camp Nou.