Real Madrid's favoured media pile pressure on ref before Chelsea clash

Real Madrid’s media pals pile the pressure on Champions League referee by telling him to ‘play fair’ against Chelsea, with players ‘fearing’ UEFA bias over club’s leading role in Super League plot

  • Real Madrid face Chelsea in their Champions League semi-final first leg tonight
  • Madrid-based paper Marca hinted at UEFA bias on their controversial front page
  • It has been suggested that Real fear reprisals after their failed Super League bid
  • Club president Florentino Perez was one of the major players behind the idea
  • El Chringuito questioned UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin and his methods
  • Referee Danny Makkelie also came under the spotlight ahead of tonight’s game 

It was predictable that after Real Madrid president Florentino Perez led the failed European Super League launch, the narrative was going to be that the club would now be the victims of UEFA reprisals. Just as predictably that narrative has spread to tonight’s Champions League semi-final.

Marca’s front page ‘Fair Play Ceferin’ put match referee Danny Makkelie bang centre of the spotlight and it was his picture above the Fair Play headline on the front page.

There wasn’t a great deal of conviction in the campaign once inside the pages of Marca. They agreed that Makkelie was an ‘elite’ referee and went on to say the Dutch whistler, ‘as absurd as it might seem,’ would have any errors he makes judged in the light of the suggestion pressure was put on him by UEFA.

Marca piled the pressure on referee Danny Makkelie on their front page on Tuesday morning

Makkelie speaks with captain Sergio Ramos before Real’s game with Atalanta last month

Spain’s football show El Chringuito ran a far more vigorous campaign, however. ‘How are we not going to think bad of Ceferin? How are we not going to doubt after the threats of Ceferin?’ its midday show asked on Monday.

The same platform on which Perez appeared last Sunday to present his Super League plan went on: ‘You will have all seen the scandal of Paris. Did you see the way the Barca players were robbed? Do you all think it’s a coincidence that PSG benefitted from that – three penalties, two of them scandalous? 

‘And tomorrow [Tuesday] Real Madrid v Chelsea – have you mentally prepared? Have you taken it onboard? 

‘Let the Real Madrid players prepare themselves. They should make sure they are careful. They will have to play the perfect game. But perhaps that will not be enough.’

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has threatened the Super League clubs with sanctions

Real president Florentino Perez has been heavily criticised for his role in the Super League

The Barca vs PSG was a reference to Sunday’s Women’s Champions League semi-final first leg in which Barcelona had two penalty shouts turned down. Barca’s coach Lluis Cortes tailored his criticism by recalling that there was no VAR to help out the match officials, but this was being presented as the prelude to tonight’s stitch-up.

When El Chiringuito tweeted the same editorial line, many responded ridiculing the tone and the content. ‘In the Spanish League everything has been gifted to Madrid for decades’ said one response. Another read: ‘Hahaha this is the club that has benefited from from referees in the history of football.’

Another said: ‘Does that mean the four Champions Leagues the club won were because of referees?’ Another said: ‘This is normal: Put pressure on the referee so he errs in favour of Madrid. It’s like opening the umbrella before the rain starts.’

Makkelie also featured on the cover of Spanish football show El Chiringuito on Tuesday

The most serious claim was repeated in the programme’s late-night slot, with the accusation that at least one Real Madrid player ‘feared’ the refereeing the team might encounter in tonight’s game.

That claim upset pundit and former Real Madrid player Javier Balboa, who said he didn’t like the insinuation Madrid would be turned over by the match officials because he had heard exactly the same from Barca fans before the last Clasico – saying they would lose because of the referee – and it gave them the perfect excuse after they were defeated.

It also seemed lost on the conspiracy theorists that Chelsea were also in the original ‘dirty dozen’ and that Thomas Tuchel has spoken out against UEFA’s own revamp of the tournament recently.

Karim Benzema and his team-mates are preparing for a huge Champions League semi tonight

Spanish media appear to have forgotten that Chelsea were also involved in the Super League 

It would have helped the campaign had matchday referee Makkelie had any history of siding against Real Madrid. Unfortunately his only game refereeing the Spanish side came this season and was in their 3-1 win over Atalanta in Valdebebas.

There was plenty made of how Makkelie had been referee of this year’s 2-2 draw between Portugal and Serbia. He and his assistants failed to spot a Portugal goal had crossed the line before it was cleared. Not exactly against Real Madrid, but it did upset Cristiano Ronaldo.

He gave a post-match interview in which he said: ‘In accordance with FIFA policies, all I can say is that I apologised to the national coach, Fernando Santos, and to the Portuguese team for what happened.

‘As a referee team we always work hard to make good decisions. When we are on the news in this way it does not make us happy at all.’

 Cristiano Ronaldo was furious after he had a goal disallowed by Makkelie against Serbia

The former Real star’s shot clearly crossed the line but officials decided the ball wasn’t over 

Makkelie apologised to the players and Portugal’s manager following the international clash

For all the ridicule and the suggestions that this is just a case of either trying to force errors to go their way or getting the excuses in early, there will be those who swallow the charge that UEFA will now take their revenge on Madrid through Makkelie.

Zinedine Zidane knows there is an inherent danger in allowing such theories to take root. Having the excuse set up beforehand might work for some, but not for his players.

‘We are screwed if we think that,’ he said. He needs his players focused and not affected by the attempt to induce delirium.

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