Newcastle vs. Chelsea headlines a busy English Premier League weekend with the former policeman Howard Webb taking charge of the action at St. James’ Park.
This will be Webb’s third time taking charge of a Magpies match this season with the other two matches coming in a 3-0 home defeat by Manchester United and a 2-1 loss to Stoke City.
The match could prove to be a physical one with Blues boss Rafa Benitez looking to get his struggling side back on track while sixth from the bottom Magpies hope to get on track with a win and avoid slipping into the relegation zone.
The last time Webb took charge of a Newcastle-Chelsea fixture was in May of 2005, when he showed his usual penchant for discipline during a 1-1 draw handing out several yellow cards.
Kevin Friend will referee Saturday’s Fulham-Manchester United clash after a questionable performance in Wednesday’s Liverpool-Arsenal fixture.
During Wednesday’s 2-2 draw at The Emirates, Friend made some unexpected but critical calls which left fans from both sides scratching their heads.
Friend missed a blatant hand ball by Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen in the second half which would have given the visitors an earlier two-goal cushion. He also gifted Arsenal’s first goal with his questionable positioning of a free kick after Theo Walcott was fouled by Lucas about 15 yards out from the Liverpool penalty area. After the Lucas foul, Walcott stumbled forward several steps and clattered into a surprised Reds defender Glen Johnson who did everything he could to get out of Walcott’s way but was whistled for the foul. The resulting free kick by Jack Wilshere was headed home by Olivier Giroud stunning Liverpool, then moments later Theo Walcott hammered home a pass to tie the score. In the 81st minute Arsenal players were up in arms at the referee when an obvious mistake by Friend gave Liverpool a corner kick. A clearance by Thomas Vermaelen struck the leg of Liverpool’s Claudio Suarez before passing over the goal line which should have led to an Arsenal goal kick - but not according to Friend who pointed to the corner flag. Thankfully for Arsenal fans, the resulting free kick was cleared out of the penalty area.
Friend is no stranger to controversial decisions so United boss Sir Alex Ferguson will need to have his whits about him after being charged with misconduct earlier this week by the FA for his comments about linesmen Simon Beck in his team’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham earlier this month.
EPL REFEREE ASSIGNMENTS
(Home teams listed first)
Queens Park Rangers vs Norwich
Referee: Jon Moss; Assistants: J Flynn, M Scholes; Fourth official: N Swarbrick
Arsenal vs Stoke
Referee: Chris Foy; Assistants: M McDonough, D Bryan; Fourth official: D Drysdale
Everton vs Aston Villa
Referee: Mike Jones; Assistants: M Mullarkey, M Wilkes; Fourth official: A Taylor
Newcastle vs Chelsea
Referee: Howard Webb; Assistants: P Kirkup, J Brooks; Fourth official: S Attwell
Reading vs Sunderland
Referee: Lee Mason; Assistants: R West, S Beck; Fourth official: G Sutton
West Ham vs Swansea
Referee: Lee Probert; Assistants: G Beswick, R Ganfield; Fourth official: P Dowd
Wigan vs Southampton
Referee: Andre Marriner; Assistants: D Cann, S Long; Fourth official: M Clattenburg
Fulham vs Manchester United
Referee: Kevin Friend; Assistants: S Ledger, S Burt; Fourth official: M Oliver
West Bromwich Albion vs Tottenham
Referee: Mark Clattenburg; Assistants: S Child, L Betts; Fourth official: P Dowd
Manchester City vs Liverpool
Referee: Anthony Taylor; Assistants: A Garratt, A Halliday; Fourth official: A Marriner