Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar. Perhaps the three finest players in the world at the moment, all together in one incredible attacking line-up in Barcelona, and with the likes of Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique making up the rest of the squad, they should really be considered as one of the greatest club sides in football history. However, the only stain on Barcelona’s reputation is the consistent pressure placed on referees by their players.
On Tuesday, Barcelona came from behind to beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in the Champions League quarter-final, Suarez scoring both goals at the Nou Camp. Fernando Torres had earlier given the visitors the lead before he was dismissed only ten minutes later after picking up two yellow cards.
Looking back, Torres’ red card seems incredibly harsh. He made just two fouls, and even though they were challenges he didn’t have to make, they weren’t worth two yellow cards. The second challenge appeared to be an honest attempt to win the ball, and the referee’s mind seemed to be made up by Sergio Busquets rolling around on the floor, a man who went unpunished for a similar challenge just moments later.
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This isn’t the first time an opposition player has been sent off in a big Champions League match at the Camp Nou in controversial circumstances. John Terry was dismissed for an off the ball incident involving Alexis Sanchez in 2012, while Thiago Motta saw red for Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan, after his altercation with Busquets seeing the Spaniard rolling on the floor, with TV cameras picking up him sneaking a glance at the referee.
Barcelona would go on to lose both of these matches, with both incidents followed by a number of their players surrounding the referee demanding a red card. This has become common practice for the Spanish side in both the Champions League and La Liga.
It isn’t always just red cards that go Barcelona’s way, with Suarez lucky to escape punishment, firstly for kicking out at Juanfran, then later appearing to put his hand in Filipe Luis’ face. Luis himself made reference to a number of decisions that went Barcelona’s way, claiming that there is a fear the Blaugrana will be eliminated from the Champions League.
"I don't know what Barca players have to do to get sent off just like us," said the 30-year-old, “We had our chances, but we always knew it was going to be really difficult. We shouldn't have got the red card, it was totally unfair. It is not easy to play against Barcelona in the Champions League. We know it is really dangerous if they go out in the quarter-finals."
It is difficult to argue with what the Brazilian said, given that the list of examples of referees appearing to favour Barca is growing. There always seems to be pressure put on the officials by Barcelona players, with many of them consistently in the referee’s ear throughout the game.
This is something that you would think the Barcelona players don’t need to do. They should be one of the best club sides in football history with the incredible talent that they have at their disposal and their extraordinary style of play, but the fact they are constantly followed by controversy certainly tarnishes their reputation.