El Clasico: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo helped redefine the bitter rivalry between the clubs, but without either star will the world still watch?
This Sunday, for the first time since 2007, no player will be present at the two clubs when they meet for the 247th edition of one of the biggest clashes in football.
Messi’s departure for Paris Saint-Germain, which shocked the football world this summer, was a consequence of the serious financial difficulties that Barcelona find themselves in, after years of economic recklessness that have prevented the club from facing adequate to the impacts of the pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, the team have struggled since losing the greatest player in club history and head coach Ronald Koeman has often borne the brunt of fans’ frustration over Barcelona’s deficits this season.
The Dutch manager will surely not appreciate Real Madrid’s visit to Camp Nou this weekend, but he and his team can perhaps regain some confidence after recently recording back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Not that those two wins – against Valencia and Dynamo Kiev – did anything to ease the pressure on besieged Koeman.
After the somewhat stale 1-0 victory over Dynamo on Wednesday, which earned Barcelona their first Champions League points this season, the players left to start taunting sections of the crowd – from those fans who had taken worth showing up, that is.
“The lethargy of Camp Nou and a Clasico to reactivate a business of 119 million [Euros]”, can we read in the title.
“The stadium was not even half full in the two games as it was cleared at 100% capacity; el Clasico is the litmus test.”
Marca says Barcelona are expected to receive 119 million euros ($ 138.4 million) in gate revenue this season, but in the two games since local authorities have again authorized the club to open the entire his stadium after the pandemic – against Valencia and Dynamo Kiev – they only hosted 47,317 and 45,968 fans respectively. That’s less than half of the Camp Nou’s 99,354 capacity.
But according to Victor Navarro, a journalist at the Cadena COPE radio station, the first signs before El Clasico are good, with eight areas of Camp Nou already sold and 11 more on the verge of reaching 100%.
The remaining areas are priced between € 99 and € 249, says Navarro, with the remaining VIP sections priced at € 750.
Highs and lows
Real Madrid’s story of the season so far is certainly more positive, but it’s a season that has seen incredible peaks and troughs before.
The French striker has been in scintillating form to start the season, accumulating a stunning nine goals and seven assists in just eight La Liga appearances.
Huge wins against Celta Vigo and Real Mallorca early in Carlo Ancelotti’s reign have raised hopes among fans for a successful season, but the recent 2-1 losses to Sheriff Tiraspol – perhaps the most big upheaval in Champions League history – and Espanyol have dampened the mood considerably.
The 5-0 midweek victory over Shakhtar Donetsk was a huge result for the team’s confidence, but fans still fear that this team is prone to stagnant performances.
However, Los Blancos could still get a late boost for Sunday’s game.
Despite returning from a recent international duty with a slight blow, Sport report that the Belgian star could finally face Barcelona for the first time since arriving 28 months ago for a fee of $ 113 million.
“Hazard hopes to finally make his Clasico debut,” the headline read.
“Injuries kept him from playing in the previous four and now he limps until the Camp Nou date,” the article continued. “This Thursday he trained as usual and it is very possible that he will be on the squad roster.
“His frustration is that of the Madrid fans, who have started to lose hope of seeing the ‘crack’ who was at Chelsea.”
Despite this Clasico at the start of the season and Real Madrid holding just two points ahead of Barcelona in La Liga, there is a feeling that a victory for either side could prove to be the catalyst for best things to come.
A heavy defeat, however, could just as easily plunge one of these clubs into yet another crisis.