Xavi offers support to controversial World Cup referee Antoinio Mateu Lahoz

Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz will take charge of his first competitive match since the controversial World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands tomorrow, when he whistles the Catalan derby between Barcelona and Espanyol.

Lahoz came under fire for his handling of the quarter final tie, in which 16 yellow cards and one red were handed out as La Albiceleste saw off the defiant Dutch side on penalties. Most notably, Lionel Messi criticised Lahoz’s antics, claiming that the Spaniard was “not up to task”.

In his return to Spanish football, there will be plenty of onlookers analysing his performance in one of the biggest fixtures in the league calendar. However, he has been backed publicity by Barca head coach Xavi Hernandez, who was keen to underline the difficulties that referees face in his pre-match press conference, as per Sport.

“I like Mateu Lahoz, he talks a lot with the player, he tells you the reasons. It means a lot to me. It’s hard to be a referee, but he tells you why he makes his decision. I referee training and it’s not easy.”

Tomorrow’s match will be Lahoz’s fourth Catalan derby, having previously whistled wins for Barcelona in 2015, 2016 and 2018. With the attention currently placed on him, he will be keen for a quiet afternoon with little controversy.

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