Lionel Messi’s fractured arm means this Saturday’s meeting between Barcelona and Real Madrid will be the first in 11 years not to feature either the Argentine No10 or Cristiano Ronaldo.
Rather fittingly, the Clasico of December 2007 proved to be a defining moment in the two great clubs’ unparalleled rivalry.
With Messi injured, Barcelona head coach Frank Rijkaard called upon proven performers Ronaldinho and Deco to fill the void left by the magical 20-year-old.
Bernd Schuster opted to keep faith in Julio Baptista, rather than replacing the Brazilian with the returning Guti, a decision which was entirely justified…
Going in to the game, all the pressure was on Barca.
Real held a four-point lead over their rivals in the league having won 12 of their 16 games, compared to Barca’s nine.
Whispers of Rijkaard’s uncertain future circulated Catalonia.
It is often the case that a season is defined by El Clasico — the sheer gravity of the fixture shapes the entire campaign and can make or break an individual’s reputation.
Real Madrid went on to win the league comfortably.
Barca finished ten points behind second-placed Villarreal having dropped points in 19 games over the course of the season.
Rijkaard was sacked in May and Pep Guardiola was named as his replacement.
Barca won the treble the very next season with many immediately heralding them as one of the greatest teams ever.
While there were several contributing factors to the defining transition in Barcelona’s history, it can certainly be traced back to defeat in El Clasico sans Messi in 2007.
There’s a reason they call it the biggest game in the world — it produces shock waves like no other.