Choice of Champions League second-leg referee for Chelsea semi-final revives 'Barça bias' claim

 

Barcelona

Conspiracy theorists who share Jose Mourinho's belief that Barcelona's recent success in the Champions League has come with a helping hand from Uefa will feel they have extra ammunition after Erzik Senes, vice-president of Uefa's referees committee, picked fellow Turk Cuneyt Cakir to referee Chelsea's second leg tomorrow night.

Erzik is a former Unicef employee and Mourinho, the Real Madrid coach, famously suggested Barcelona were favoured by Uefa because of their sponsorship of Unicef in a post-match rant last season, after Pepe had been sent off in the Champions League semi-final first leg which Barça won 2-0.

Barcelona renewed their sponsorship of Unicef by signing a one-year deal last May and will carry the organisation's logo on their shirts against Chelsea. Erzik is vice- president of Uefa's referee's committee but also worked as a project manager for Unicef.

Compatriot Cakir – his choice for tomorrow's second leg – has refereed four Champions League games this season and shown no red cards. The 35 year old is also on Uefa's list of match officials for the European Championships this summer.

Last year Mourinho said: "If I say to Uefa what I really think then my career will be finished. As I can't say what I think I will ask the question: Why? I don't understand why? Why [Tom] Ovrebo? Why [Massimo] Busacca? Why [Wolfgang] Stark? Every semi-final the same thing happens. I don't know if it is the publicity of Unicef. My question is why? Why don't they let us play against them? Why send Pepe off? Why not give four penalties in the game against Chelsea. Why send off [Thiago] Motta? Why send off Robin Van Persie? Where does this power come from?"

Meanwhile, Barcelona will have to pick themselves up off the floor after their 2-1 defeat to Real on Saturday virtually guaranteed the Madrid side will win La Liga for the first time since 2008.

Pep Guardiola's Barcelona have never lost three consecutive matches and he was confident his players would find the strength to go again tomorrow night, despite admitting they were too down to talk after the game.

The mood was best summed up by Jorge Valdano, the former Real Madrid director of football: "Nothing tires a team out at this stage of the season quite like a defeat." Barcelona had just lost their second match in three days and relinquished their La Liga crown in the process; with Chelsea on the horizon, no wonder they looked exhausted.

Guardiola said he did not agree that his side's matches against Chelsea and Real Madrid had been "disappointing" but it was hard to find a kinder word for Barça having saved two of their most ineffective performances for the two games that mattered most.

Jose Mourinho's Real only had 27 per cent of the possession, yet they had twice as many shots on goal (six to Barcelona's three), forced three more corners (seven to Barça's four) – and, most importantly, scored twice.

Barça's 2-1 defeat ended a 54-match unbeaten run in the Nou Camp and meant that for only the third time in Guardiola's reign the team had suffered consecutive defeats. They may yet stir from their slumber to overturn Chelsea's first-leg advantage tomorrow night. "If we go through, then everything will be focused on us playing two finals," said Guardiola, whose team have already made it to the Spanish cup final. But the signs were not good on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Victor Valdes flapped at Pepe's header from Angel Di Maria's first-half corner and Carles Puyol was unable to clear the loose ball as Sami Khedira stole in for Madrid's scrappy opener.

Those two, along with Gerard Pique, Eric Abidal and Dani Alves, formed the back five that won the Champions League last season. But with Alves playing up front as Guardiola tinkered, Pique on the bench and unused for the second match running, and Abidal recovering from a liver transplant, the smooth transition from solid defence to attack has gone. The midfield trio of Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta looked out of sorts. Xavi missed the best chance of the first half, shooting wide after being put through by Lionel Messi, and was taken off for the third match running. "If we could play the game against Chelsea today, then we would," Xavi said yesterday. "We are raging inside to turn the result around. The team is very competitive."

He also dismissed the idea that Barcelona's season is heading for meltdown. "We have managed to win three trophies this season already and we are in the cup final and 90 minutes from the Champions League final. It is within our grasp still to make this a great season," he said.

Xavi's form will need to improve – as will that of Barcelona's misfiring forwards. Last season, Messi was flanked up front by Pedro and David Villa; on Saturday night he had 20-year-old Cristian Tello and the advanced Alves for company. How Guardiola needs Pedro to return to the sort of form that saw everything he touched turn to goal last season, or Villa to return to full fitness.

Without the Spanish national team's top scorer alongside him, Messi has had to battle with what Guardiola described as "two of the best defences in the world" on his own.

Cristiano Ronaldo got the winner on Saturday with his 42nd league goal of the season and now leads Real into Wednesday's second leg with Bayern Munich, who beat Werder Bremen 2-1 at the weekend, but only as Dortmund were confirmed as champions.

Messi has 24 hours less to prepare for the visit of Chelsea. He had 58 touches of the ball on Saturday but failed to get a single shot on target. "We crashed up against a wall," said Busquets, who knows another wall awaits him and his team-mates tomorrow night.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering