The Premier League have appointed Michael Oliver as referee for Liverpool’s title clash with Man City, after more high-profile incidents over the weekend.
Despite the introduction of VAR intending to aid referees and end post-match debate over big decisions such as offsides and penalties, the opposite has occurred so far.
There were a number of questionable calls both from on-field officials and those at Stockley Park at the weekend, and notably in Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Aston Villa.
Roberto Firmino was adjudged to have been offside by an armpit as he netted in the first half, Sadio Mane was booked for diving despite a collision with Frederic Guilbert, and a Villa handball was overlooked in the penalty area.
Video assistant Martin Atkinson came under serious scrutiny for his role in Firmino’s goal being ruled out, with the Mirror‘s David Maddock claiming “the lines have patently been distorted to disallow the goal.”
Atkinson was also involved in a series of contentious decisions in Everton‘s 1-1 draw with Tottenham, including a red card for Heung-min Son for a foul which caused Andre Gomes serious injury but was, in any other circumstance, a yellow.
The 48-year-old has been kept away from this weekend’s biggest fixture, with Oliver the referee at Anfield, joined by Stuart Burt and Simon Bennett as assistants, Mike Dean as fourth official and Paul Tierney as VAR.
Oliver is arguably the best and most qualified official in the Premier League at this stage, and his appointment has been largely welcomed.
The focus on Liverpool’s clash with City will increase in the coming days, but for now Jurgen Klopp is focusing on the visit of Genk in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
“We have to make sure that we get these three points because that’s all why we’re doing this stuff,” he told reporters on Monday.
“It only works if you’re 100 percent focused on it, everybody knows that.
“For the people in the stadium, it is very important they are in the game tomorrow night, for the players it is very important that we do that. I don’t doubt my players at all.
“I really would feel a bit embarrassed if I had to tell them, ‘By the way, boys, don’t think about Manchester City already.’ I know them well enough, I don’t have to do that.”
Atkinson will referee Newcastle vs. Bournemouth on Saturday, while he has been relieved of VAR duties for the weekend.