Barcelona beats Atletico Madrid 2-1 in Champions League

Atletico Madrid defender Filipe Luis accused Uefa of “protecting” Barcelona after their Champions League quarter-final first leg defeat at the Nou Camp and even questioned what it would take for a referee “to send one of them off”.

Luis and his Atletico team-mates were annoyed that Luis Suarez was allowed to stay on the pitch for an off-the-ball incident with Juanfran in the first half while Atletico saw their chances of reaching the semi-finals restricted following Fernando Torres’ sending off after just 35 minutes.

“The sending off is totally unjust and changed the game. Barcelona are protected. When you play against them you realise that they are a very powerful club,” Luis said.

“You realise the fear when Barcelona could get knocked out. It would hurt Uefa a lot. I don’t know what they have to do for someone to send one of them off.”

So, with that in mind, we look at what it does and doesn’t take for Barcelona players to be given their marching orders to find out whether they are above the law.

The actual red cards

Only two Barcelona players have been sent off in all competitions this season and both for merely foul language.

Gerard Pique was dismissed for yelling in the face of an assistant referee in the Spanish Super Cup second leg against Athletic Bilbao back in mid-August.

“I want to apologise because the attitude with which I protested to the assistant referee was not the correct one, Pique said. “It was a very tense match with a lot at stake. However, at no point did I direct any insult towards him.” Barcelona went on to lose 5-1 on aggregate and Pique was handed a four-match ban.

This is the same Pique who got away with collecting what appeared to be a deliberate yellow card in Barca’s Champions League last 16 first leg tie against Arsenal. Pique was seen having a suspicious conversation with manager Luis Enrique one minute and then lunging in on Danny Welbeck and being brandished a yellow card less than two minutes later.

Uefa chose not to punish the Spanish defender.

Javier Mascherano is only the other Barca player to see red this season when he was dismissed for foul language back in October in La Liga against Eibar.

The Argentine is alleged to have used the express the “**** of your mother”, or “**** of your sister” towards the assistant referee in their 3-1 home win. La Liga chief Javier Tebas almost defended the midfielder saying the outburst “is not a terrible insult”.

Barcelona have, meanwhile, benefitted from seeing 12 players sent off in nine other matches this season – four of which for a serious foul – and been fortune to see their opponents reduced to nine men on THREE separate occasions this campaign in games against Atletico, Espanyol and Rayo Vallecano.

All in all, 90 red cards have been handed out in La Liga this campaign with Rayo Vallecano the runaway bad boys of the division with 10 while Barcelona sit happily at the wrong end of one table.

What about yellow cards?

Barcelona are also the squeaky-clean winners when it comes to collecting a booking or two. Enrique’s side have gone in the referee’s book 53 times this season after 31 La Liga matches over half less than Granada. Their rivals Real Madrid are just one booking ahead of them.

The ones that got away?

Barcelona haven’t always been whiter than white though. When they signed Suarez they must have known their big-money signing would be under increased scrutiny. Well, perhaps he was in the first part of the season but even football’s previous public No 1 enemy seems to have been given a bit of leniency from the officials if last night’s incident was anything to go on.

Suarez has collected eight bookings this season and arguably should have seen red against Atletico. Barcelona were a man up at the time and the referee would have surely made it 10 a piece if he had sported the Uruguayan’s kick at Atletico defender Juanfran. Suarez escaped punishment and went on to score twice to put Barcelona in control of the quarter-final tie. Commenting on BT Sport, Rio Ferdinand reflected that Suarez “had lost it”. The Liverpool striker could yet face retrospective action.

Lionel Messi v Real Madrid

Lionel Messi is a glorious sight to behold when in full flow, but against Real Madrid last weekend he briefly forgot he was playing the beautiful game and adopted a brutal and rugby like tackle to wipe out Real defender Pepe. Messi didn’t hold back. He appeared to have his eyes locked on Pepe and speared the Portuguese with his full (albeit diminutive) force. Messi walked away without even a cosy chat from the ref.

Jordi Alba v Arsenal

Barca players and simulation go hand-in-hand but when will refs see fit to punish those who go out of their way to con officials?

Jordi Alba did his utmost best to appear as if he had been struck by Oliver Giroud’s elbow during their Champions League clash last month but on closer review he was merely trying to get one over the referee.

Alba was soon to his feet when he realised that nothing was doing and squared up to Giroud – even pushing his forehead towards the Frenchman – but the ref found no wrong-doing in the incident and refused to book either player.

In Barca’s defence

Barcelona are widely regarded as not just the best team in the world but possible the best team the world has ever seen. The team is revered for the aesthetic qualities of their attacking game and while they are one of the most fouled teams in Europe, they also commit less fouls than other teams because they have so much possession of the ball. Even in European competition they have seen more red cards handed out to their opponents (30) than any other team with Bayern Munich next with only 20 red cards issued to opposition.

Conclusion

If it’s not in-your-face verbal abuse directed towards a match official then Barcelona players this season appear to have had a relatively easy ride from the men in the middle. A lot of Barca’s sneaky off the ball misdemeanours have been glanced over by La Liga or Uefa officialdom with even Suarez being given the grace of a free pass this season (to date at least). They say that what goes around comes around, but in Barcelona’s case it feels they are indeed ‘more than just a football club’.

The views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Libyan Express.
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