Aliaksei Kulbakov is due to take charge of Young Boys v Everton and the Belarusian official has a rather interesting track record in Europe this season
Everton’s Europa League credentials will be firmly put to the test in Bern with the Toffees facing a Young Boys side in formidable form at home, though their opponents may end up being the least of their concerns.
On a run of seven consecutive wins at home in the competition, the Swiss side have also won their last three Super League fixtures at the Stade de Suisse and will be confident of their chances against Roberto Martinez’s team, who have lost six of their last seven away from Goodison Park.
However, as if form was not a big enough concern for the Merseysiders, there is also the small matter of the referee appointed to officiate the first leg.
Aliaksei Kulbakov is an experienced match official who has been taking charge of games in the Europa League and Champions League since August 2010.
Despite this, Everton fans may feel a little uneasy about the 35-year-old when they take a look at his record in Europe so far this season.
That’s because Kulbakov is coming into this encounter off the back of a card-happy streak on the continent that may leave him marked down as a cause for concern.
In the five European contests the Belarusian official has taken charge of, two in the Champions League and three in the Europa League, a grand total of 18 yellow cards and three reds have been handed out.
The first, and most notable, of the three dismissals came in a Champions League second-leg qualifier between Partizan Belgrade and Ludogorets.
With the game taking place in Serbia, Partizan had fought back from 2-0 down to draw level on the 35-minute mark.
At this point the Belgrade giants were expected to push on for a big win, however Kulbakov would court controversy after dishing out a red card to Branislav Trajkovic that ultimately changed the course of the tie with Partizan eliminated on away goals after a goalless second period.
Red cards followed in Dynamo Kyiv’s 2-0 victory over AaB in the Europa League and Benfica’s dead rubber draw with Bayer Leverkusen and Everton will need to play it safe in Switzerland if they are to escape this no-nonsense referee unscathed.