No referee in the Premier League this weekend faces a tougher task than Bobby Madley, who will officiate Chelsea’s trip to Manchester United.
A whole plethora of factors suggest Football FanCast’s Fixture in Focus will be a confrontational, tight-knit affair, filled with challenges that blur the line between fair and foul play and so close that any decision from the referee – right or wrong – could prove the difference.
Indeed, Chelsea can’t afford a slip up at Old Trafford with second-place Tottenham in the ascendancy, but United boss Jose Mourinho will be out for revenge after being humiliated by his former employers in a 4-0 thumping at Stamford Bridge earlier this season.
The bad blood between the Portuguese and his eventual successor Antonio Conte is just one thing Madley will have to keep an eye on, and he’ll be well aware before kickoff that United rank second in the Premier League’s foul charts this season, committing around 13 per match.
That could prove to be bad news for the Red Devils, because Madley awards the joint-most fouls per match of any Premier League referee, ranks joint second for yellow cards per match and joint-fourth for fouls per tackle, with Chelsea and United averaging between 17 and 18 challenges per match.
But the biggest concern for both sides should be Madley’s return of 0.38 penalties per match, suggesting there will be a spot kick at some point this Sunday. Having not awarded one since mid-March, the statistics suggest the 31-year-old is due one.