Next week, the first legs of UEFA Champions League's and UEFA Europa League's semifinal matches will be kicked off. Based on empirical aspects like previous performances, it may be possible and useful to make predictions.
UEFA Champions League:
The most crucial circumstance in this CL K.O. stage is that one EURO referee has not received a match so far: Wolfgang Stark. The Bavarian was in charge of "el clásico" in the last season and got a very high mark by UEFA observer Jaap Uilenberg. This match may count as the main reason for his EURO nomination in 2012. Stark has already overseen two important EL matches, Manchester City - FC Porto and Sporting - Metalist Kharkiv. In both matches, he showed good performances.
Therefore, one has to conclude that Stark should get a match in CL, either one of the semifinals or he could even get immediately the final match. Nonetheless, the fact that the final will be played in Munich and that only one official has managed to be appointed for a CL final without any other K.O. match (Lubos Michel in 2008). Furthermore, FC Bayern have the chance to reach the final so that UEFA actually cannot take the risk to keep Stark warm. He must then get a tie between Chelsea and Barcelona, either at Stamford Bridge or at Camp Nou. Taking the atmosphere into consideration, I would favour him in London, however, if the information is right that parts of Stark's EURO team will be active next week along with Brych (in EL), then he will surely get the match at Camp Nou, the final - or nothing.
Fussball.de reported that Felix Brych would be in charge of a CL semifinal next week. That would be a surprise. In fact, the German no.2, who received his first FIFA appointment this week (Olympic Games 2012), already had two K.O. matches: Chelsea - Napoli and APOEL - Real. Both matches were obviously liked by the respective UEFA observers. Personally, I more likely think that Brych will get an EL appointment.
The other referees might be clear, too. Pedro Proenca from Portugal, having been in charge of three matches so far in CL/EL K.O. stage, should either be nominated for a semifinal - like in 2011 - or even for the final (this is reinforced by the fact that he was observed by three (!) UEFA Referee Committee members in the last matches, Vassaras (GRE), Sajn (SVN) and in Schalke even Collina (ITA). Nicola Rizzoli did not get a quarterfinal either, along with Renato Faverani and Andrea Stefani, he is also one of those candidates "either-semi-or-final". It is Pierluigi Collina's first year as real "string puller" in UEFA refereeing. Is it sensible to immediately appoint a referee from his home town for the biggest football match in 2012? The performances would justify a final appointment for Rizzoli and his team, which is probably the one with the highest reputation and biggest palmarès amongst all the EURO teams, having Rocchi and Tagliavento at the goallines. If he gets a semifinal, it is most probably Chelsea - Barcelona. He already had Bayern in round of 16, that does not mean anything, as UEFA showed last year (Velasco had ManU - Marseille and later Schalke - ManU; Stark had Lyon - Real and later Real - Barcelona).
Finally, there are also three names who may not be forgotten. Viktor Kassai (photo) - according to IHHFS the world's best referee in 2011 - will surely be appointed for a semifinal after his Wembley Final 2011, this should be Real - Bayern. Howard Webb was already in charge of a final, too, and merely got a round of 16 match so far, where he showed a good performance, so he can be the referee for Bayern - Real.
|Viktor Kassai (HUN) (c) ZIMBIO|
Cuneyt Cakir might be a surprise by UEFA. Would it be a surprise? Not really. UEFA proved that they do not care about age, experience etc. Performances, this is what interests them. And they have been very good in remarkable matches, e.g. Real - Lyon, ManU - Benfica, Bilbao - ManU or Marseille - Inter. Tough tests, will the next follow? If not, the Turkish is - to my mind - the "hottest" candidate for Bucuresti's EL final in May.
FC Bayern - Real Madrid (17 April): Howard Webb (ENG)
Chelsea London - FC Barcelona (18 April): Nicola Rizzoli (ITA)
FC Barcelona - Chelsea London (24 April): Wolfgang Stark (GER)
Real Madrid - FC Bayern (25 April): Viktor Kassai (HUN)
UEFA Europa League:
The smaller UEFA club tournament, the Europa League, reveals more challenges when thinking about possible referee appointments. There are plenty of possible candidates, it does not matter whether they are coming from ELITE Group or ELITE Development.
I take Felix Brych's appointment as guaranteed so that I will focus on the three remaining matches. It is again - like last year - a semifinal solely consisting of Spanish and Portuguese teams. Last time, there were three Portuguese teams and one Spanish team, now it is the other way round. Bilbao went through against giants like ManU and Schalke and will now meet Sporting Lisbon who also prevailed over Manchester - but ManCity. In the other semifinal tie, there are the Spanish rivals Valencia CF and Atlético Madrid. Both had the easier path into the semifinals, but what is easy..
It makes sense to exclude those ELITE referees who already had one of those teams in the round of 32, 16 and the quarterfinals.
Sporting Lisbon - Athletic Bilbao, officials involved in both teams EL path (starting at R32):
Matej Jug (SVN), Vladislav Bezborodov (RUS), Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP), Tom Harald Hagen (NOR), Wolfgang Stark (GER), William Collum (SCO) / Ovidiu Alin Hategan (ROU), Pawel Gil (POL), Florian Meyer (GER), Cuneyt Cakir (TUR), Pedro Proenca (POR), Nicola Rizzoli (ITA).
I take these referees therefore as possible candidates:
Martin Atkinson (ENG), Kevin Blom (NED), Mark Clattenburg (ENG), Jonas Eriksson (SWE), Viktor Kassai (HUN), Björn Kuipers (NED), Stéphane Lannoy (FRA), Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR), Gianluca Rocchi (ITA), Damir Skomina (SVN), Paolo Tagliavento (ITA), Craig Thomson (SCO), Howard Webb (ENG).
Due to several circumstances (e.g. that I already predicted one of these referees in CL matches, that I consider it as not probable that a referee, who had a EL QF, gets an SF after that, performances....), these officials are remaining:
Jonas Eriksson (SWE), Björn Kuipers (NED), Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR), Damir Skomina (SVN).
Eriksson had an excellent season in UEFA CL and got one match in EL so far (with Atlético involvement), it would be logical if this season is rewarded by a semifinal match.
The Dutchman Björn Kuipers showed a good performance in Barcelona with many good decisions and one controversial penalty kick, the referee observer - according to sources - was pretty content with the match. He did not have an EL match so far, hence, it would make sense to appoint him. But not for this match...
Svein Oddvar Moen, a talent without any doubt. Having been in charge of a FIFA final ahead 95.000 spectators in "Estadio Azteca", this season turned out to be his best so far. Two CL K.O. matches, both on a good level of refereeing. If he joined the EURO, I would prefer him as EL final referee, but as he is no EURO referee, he can get a semifinal perhaps, even though both matches can be - due to their Iberian atmosphere - tough. Very tough.
|Damir Skomina (SVN) (c) ZIMBIO|
Damir Skomina from Slovenia has increased the quality of his performances at an enormous pace. Last season, he had some problems in his CL matches, that was also the case in his quarterfinal 2011. But this season is better. 5 CL matches so far, always top clashes, always with English involvement. Nevertheless, I do not regard his style as suitable for these matches. And yes, with all due respect to his good performances and decisions, he unfolded communication problems. I doubt that it would be a good idea to give him such tense matches, as one needs "control-referees" here. But if he gets a semifinal, then it is certainly better to give him the match in Lisbon (although his reputation is potentially not the best in the Portuguese capital..). Between Eriksson and Skomina, it is a very close decision. Eriksson has won by 51-49.
As Brych is set for one of the Atlético - Valencia matches, we must only think about one official. Kuipers? Eriksson? Both would be good choices. At any rate, these are my predictions:
Sporting Lisbon - Athletic Bilbao (19 April): Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR)
Atlético Madrid - Valencia CF (19 April): Felix Brych (GER)
Valencia CF - Atlético Madrid (26 April): Björn Kuipers (NED)Athletic Bilbao - Sporting Lisbon (26 April): Jonas Eriksson (SWE)
As I know them, UEFA will kid me on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.