Why Liverpool’s Europa League referee may spell bad news

Damir Skomina is due to referee the Europa League clash between Liverpool and Besiktas and may not do enough to protect the Reds in Turkey.

A trip to the Ataturk Olympic Stadium should hold plenty of happy memories for Liverpool fans, but after the upcoming Europa League clash with Besiktas it may also provide some painful ones for Brendan Rodgers’ squad.

Winners of the Champions League at the Istanbul ground back in 2005, the stadium may host an altogether different encounter this time around.

Liverpool lead 1-0 from the home leg at Anfield but what was a stop-start encounter in Merseyside could explode into something else in Turkey.

That first leg on Merseyside featured no fewer than 34 fouls, with the entire Besiktas back four picking up yellow cards and Liverpool winning a penalty in the process.

Are Besiktas overly-physical?

Slaven Bilic’s team are developing something of a reputation for touch-tackling and questionable defensive tactics this term.

In the group phase, a 2-2 draw away to Asteras Tripolis featured five yellow cards for the Turkish outfit, with two of these coming for midfielder Atiba Hutchinson who was duly dismissed in a game that featured some 35 fouls.

Another home tie with Partizan Belgrade was similarly ill-tempered, with a penalty and six yellow cards awarded along with 43 fouls.

It’s been a similar story in the Turkish Super Lig too, with Besiktas involved in a feisty home encounter with Bursaspor that featured seven yellow cards and one red.

With an intimidating home crowd behind them this Thursday, it would therefore not be a massive surprise to see Besiktas go out all guns blazing against Liverpool, making the need for a referee willing to protect the away side something of a necessity.

Why should Liverpool fans be concerned?

Whether Damir Skomina is the man to do that remains to be seen, given that the Slovenian match official is coming into the game on the back of some timid displays.

The 38-year-old put in a questionable European performance back in December of last year.

Officiating the Champions League clash between AS Monaco and Zenit St Petersburg, the Slovenian referee was guilty of allowing the Russian visitors to escape from one too many fouls unpunished.

Despite racking up 18 fouls to the principality club’s eight, Zenit received just two yellow cards for their troubles.

With Liverpool facing a physical Besiktas side just days before a crunch Premier League clash with Manchester City, manager Brendan Rodgers may simply be hoping his players survive the trip unscathed rather than risk injury for Europa League progression.

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