It is said a referee has his best match when his performance is not discussed in the post match discussions. But here the stats don't seem great for the Liga refs. Three matches, three of the toughest matches. Three experienced referees. Six genuine penalty appeals ignored.
Barcelona seems to be at the receiving end of poor refereeing errors. Fouls, handballs, penalty appeals are regularly being decided against Barcelona's favour which might worry fans and players alike. A wrongly judged offside decision cost Barca the La Liga title in 2014 -- and things seem to be going in the same direction this season.
One may remember Gerard Pique's outburst after the referee failed to notice Aduriz offside by a huge margin in the Super Cup second leg. True that Pique overreacted and he was punished for it. But the ref didn't do himself any favour by the string of poor decisions he made. And these continued well into the next few La Liga matches.
During the first match officiated by Carlos del Cerro Grande, Dani Alves was fouled by Aduriz and was left unpunished. Alves had to leave the field and is still recovering. The man who replaced him, young La Masia graduate Sergi Roberto, shone in that match and was given the man of the match award. During one particular instance Roberto crossed the ball though it seemed the ball had gone out of the by-line. The ball was clearly handled by Elustondo inside the box. No penalty given. At least, a Suarez half volley late on earned a valuable three points.
In the next match Barca played Malaga, whom Barca had failed to beat last season. With revenge on their minds backed by the Camp Nou crowd Barca were favourites and rightly so. But Malaga wouldn't give in without a fight. And the referee didn't help either. Neymar after winning a one on one duel managed to get inside the box and the ball was handled by a defender. Much to their disappointment, referee waived play on. A little later Suarez was fouled by Angeleri and no penalty was given. An unexpected volley from Vermaelen ended the match at 1-0.
Against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona's old nemesis Antonio Mateu Lahoz refereed the match. Two Jose Gimenez handballs resulting from a Ivan Rakitic cross and a Neymar shot were not awarded. Later Godin blocked a Neymar shot with his hands. Incredibly, that was also ignored. Simply astonishing. Neymar and Messi however produced individual moments of magic and it was enough to win them the match.
Diego Simeone recently said that this year it would be hard for any team other than Real Madrid to win the league. And though it seems to have been said in a not-so-serious overtone but the foreshocks seems to be shaking Barcelona regularly.
Coupled with the toughest opening round fixtures in recent times and a spate of injuries to some first team players, these wrong decisions are not helping the champions in any way.
Luckily, Barcelona are not just any other team. They are the defending Liga, Copa and Champions League winners. If they successfully negotiate these hurdles then another treble may be on the horizon -- whether the referees want it or not.