This article was originally published as 4-3-3 or 3-4-3? That is the Question Guardiola Faces in the Clásico Section of the Spain Football Community
Like the Prince of Norway, Guardiola is faced with an important question in the run-up to Saturday's game against Real Madrid in the Bernabéu.
With The Blancos comfortably clear at the top of La Liga table, the Madrid press are suggesting that it's a question of 'To Be or Not To Be' for Pep Guardiola's FC Barcelona, but no, no, no ... the Barça manager's philosophical problem runs much deeper than that.
'4-3-3 or 3-4-3? THAT is the question!'
Who Will Guardiola Choose To Play?
After the Levante game, it seemed that starting line-up on Saturday would come from the thirteen players that Guardiola rested against BATE plus Gerard Piqué who, as he missed the match against Levante for the notorious yellow card accumulation, was in need of a competitive game.
However, Piqué stayed on the bench in the 4-0 thrashing of BATE by Barça B, and Pedro and Cuenca put in such fine performances that it's hard to see how Pep can risk not taking them to Madrid.
4-3-3 - The Obvious Choice?
Let's face it! However many variations Guardiola has played with so far this season, most Barcelona fans have a Basic 11 First Team in mind.
This would be made up of Valdés in goals, Alves, Mascherano or Puyol, Piqué and Abidal as the Back Four, Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta in Midfield with an attack formed by Messi in the middle flanked by Villa on the left and either Alexis, Pedro or even Cuenca on the right.
But even if he plays 4-3-3, Guardiola just loves to surprise, and given his spectacular recent form it's hard to see Cesc Fàbregas being left out of the team.
Cesc is becoming increasingly lethal in attack, so in the case of a 4-3-3, Pep will play him in the centre and move Messi out to his old position on the right, sacrificing Alexis, Pedro and Cuenca!
Given his obvious devotion for Keita, he might even play the African in midfield and move Iniesta up to occupy Villa's position on the left wing.
But I don't like either of these options!
Despite the Barça attack's freedom of movement, playing Messi on the right is just a waste of talent, so in the end, I'm convinced that Guardiola will go for a 3-4-3!
It Has To Be 3-4-3
I know Guardiola comes across as calm and collected, but in actual fact he's a cocky little so-and-so.
In much the same way as Jesus did, his turning the cheek to Madrid and Mourinho's petty slaps, just shows how confident he is to be not only Catalan but also that he's the best coach in modern football!
He tried and tested it against lesser Liga sides, he proved it worked against Milan and he's going to want wipe the floor of Bernabéu with his Cruyff School 3-4-3.
I basically agree with the system shown in the the accompanying picture, with one difference ...
Valdés in goals - brave and prepared to come out to close down Cristiano Ronaldo or Di María when he has to.
Puyol - spirit, fight, leadership and Catalan pride at right back.
Mascherano - capable of moving forward to accompany Busquets when necessary in the centre of the defence.
Abidal - an insurance policy if things go apeshit at left back.
Busquets - and there only is one Busquets to close down, provoke and make the Madrid fans raise their hands in horror at the back of the midfield.
Xavi - to create and channel the play on the left side of the midfield.
Iniesta - because Don Andrés is the Pale Knight and strike fear into the hearts of ye of little faith!
Cesc - at front of the midfield constantly changing the False 9 position with Messi.
Villa - on the left of the attack because despite being an unsung hero, give him an inch and he'll take a mile.
Messi - Pep, please put Messi in the middle! That's where he does most damage!
.... and last but not least ...
Alves on the right wing ... Guardiola's been playing him in different positions recently, has experimented with Adriano in that position and a Madrid-Barça just can't start without him!
I may be completely wrong of course but I think these are the eleven most in-form players at the time of writing and, of course, if everything starts to go arse over tit, Pep Guardiola and his faithful companion Tito Vilanova will have some tasty substitutes on the bench!