CNN  — 

At the absolute peak of their rivalry, El Clasico often seemed more about Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi than it did Real Madrid vs. Barcelona.

This Sunday, for the first time since 2007, neither player will be at the two clubs when they meet for the 247th edition of one of football’s greatest clashes.

Messi’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain, which shocked the world of football this summer, was a consequence of the dire financial straits that Barcelona finds itself in, after years of economic imprudence left the club unable to adequately deal with the impacts of the pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, the team has struggled since losing the greatest player in club history and head coach Ronald Koeman has often borne the brunt of fan frustration for Barcelona’s shortfalls this season.

The Dutch manager will surely not be relishing Real Madrid’s visit to the Camp Nou this weekend, but he and his team can perhaps find 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 – have done anything to ease the pressure on the beleaguered Koeman.