Three players from each side are just one booking away from a suspension which would see them miss the second leg next week, with card happy Viktor Kassai in charge
By Ben Hayward
Six players go into Tuesday night’s Champions League semi-final first leg between Bayern Munich and Barcelona knowing that a yellow card will leave them suspended for next week’s return match at Camp Nou.
The two teams each have three men on a suspension tightrope ahead of the game at the Allianz Arena: Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique and Alex Song are all one booking away from a ban for Barca; Dante, Philipp Lahm and Luiz Gustavo find themselves in an equally precarious position for Bayern. Curiously, a central defender, a full-back and a defensive midfielder from each side.
Suspensions for the semi-final second leg or for the final could cost either side dearly and Bayern will have bad memories of Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai, who will officiate Tuesday’s match. The 37-year-old took charge of last season’s semi-final second leg versus Real Madrid (as Bayern lost 2-1 but later triumphed on penalties) and left the Germans’ defence depleted ahead of the showpiece against Chelsea by booking David Alaba, Holger Badstuber and Luiz Gustavo.
Alaba’s card came as he was alleged to have handled in the area, when in fact the ball was blasted directly at his arm from close range and he was desperately unlucky to concede a penalty. And Kassai appeared to level things out by awarding a similarly contentious spot kick to Bayern for a supposed Pepe foul on Mario Gomez at the other end.
The Hungarian, a travel agent by day, definitely likes a booking. He handed out 152 cards in just 30 games last season and his cautions in the semi-final second leg seriously disrupted Jupp Heynckes’ defensive plans ahead of the final against Chelsea, which the Bavarians ended up losing on their home ground. Dante and Lahm in particular would be huge losses for a tough trip to Camp Nou next week and the Bavarians will therefore hope to avoid a repeat this time around.
Barcelona will recall Kassai with more fondness, as the Hungarian officiated their 2011 final win over Manchester United at Wembley, yet the Catalans can ill afford to lose defensive personnel for the semi-final second leg either.
Tito Vilanova’s team will welcome back the suspended Adriano for the second match, while Carles Puyol could be available again after injury and Eric Abidal is back in contention following his remarkable recovery from a liver transplant. But Pique and Alba are key for the Catalans and Barca will need to be at their very best at the back in both games to edge out Bayern. Pique, in particular, would represent a huge loss for the second match.
So with Kassai in charge, both Bayern and Barca will need to be on their best behaviour this Tuesday.
Follow Ben Hayward on