News: Champions League Referees, February 19
Well, well. It seems that the four upcoming Champions League matches this week (February 18 and 19) are a showcase for the Gods of Refereeing.
You can’t get much better than this week’s choices. On Tuesday, there’s Jonas Eriksson of Sweden and Viktor Kassai of Hungary, both consistently excellent referees. On Wednesday, you have:
Yes, that’s right, Mr. Smooth is back (just as I predicted)! Nicola Rizzoli (above) will travel to London to manage Arsenal v. Bayern Munich. The fact that he’s fairly easy on the eyes not withstanding, Rizzoli’s an excellent referee, particularly on the European or International circuit. He tends to like his cards, especially in Serie A, but he has also proven to be very measured in Europe, where there’s not as much diving and theatrics (difficult to believe as that might be).
That said, Arsenal fans will remember him from last year, when he infuriated Arsene Wenger (though that’s admittedly not that hard to do) by stopping play when a Schalke player rolled an ankle, even though Arsenal was driving toward goal. Though Wenger was spitting mad at the time, it was later revealed that UEFA refs were urged to be overly cautious where injuries are concerned, so he really didn’t have much choice.
I found the whole kerfluffle pretty entertaining, because I watch him in Serie A; there, you pretty much need to have an alien bursting out of your chest before he’ll stop play. And even then he’s not overly happy about it.
Rounding out the four is Pedro Proenca of Portgual. Like Rizzoli, Proenca is on the list for the World Cup finals. He refereed the 2012 European Championships final and the 2012 Champions League final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich. He’s technically gifted, and has a tendency to stay out of controversy. Just a good, solid, boring referee, which is exactly what you want at this level.