El Clasico was mostly seems more about Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi than it was about Real Madrid vs. Barcelona at the height of their rivalry.
For the first time since 2007, neither player will be present when the two clubs meet for the 247th edition of one of football’s greatest rivalries on Sunday.
Messi’s move to PSG, which shocked the football world this summer, was a result of Barcelona’s dire financial straits, which resulted from years of financial mismanagement that left the club unable to adequately deal with the pandemic’s effects.
Unsurprisingly, the team has struggled since losing the greatest player in club history, and head coach Ronald Koeman has taken a lot of heat from fans this season for Barcelona’s failures.
The Dutch manager will undoubtedly be looking forward to Real Madrid’s visit to the Camp Nou this weekend, but he and his team can take heart after winning back-to-back games for the first time this season.
Those two victories against Valencia and Dynamo Kiev haven’t done much to relieve the pressure on Koeman.
The players left to pitch to jeers from some sections of the crowd after the somewhat stale 1-0 victory over Dynamo on Wednesday, which earned Barcelona its first points in the Champions League this season.
Marca, a Spanish sports newspaper, focused on recent attendances at the Camp Nou, which have been far from ideal for a club that desperately needs gate receipts to help it out of its current financial mess.
“The lethargy of the Camp Nou and a Clasico to reactivate a business of 119 million [Euros],” the headline reads.
“The stadium has not even been half full in the two games since it has been permitted 100% capacity; el Clasico is the litmus test.”
According to Marca, Barcelona expected to earn €119 million ($138.4 million) in gate receipts this season, but the club has only drawn 47,317 and 45,968 fans in the two matches since local authorities allowed the club to reopen its entire stadium following the pandemic — against Valencia and Dynamo Kiev. That’s less than half of the Camp Nou’s capacity of 99,354.