Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain have been told they will have an ‘elite’ referee in charge of Wednesday night’s Champions League meeting at St James Park.
Romanian official Istvan Kovacs will be the man in the middle and he will bring a wealth of experience after taking charge of matches in his home country since 2006 and he has also officiated major games in both European competition and the World Cup Finals in recent years.
Kovacs was the man in the middle as Roma become the first ever Europa Conference League winners with a 1-0 win over Feyenoord in May last year and was selected to officiate at the FIFA World Cup just months later, taking on fourth official duties for eight games in Qatar.
He took charge of several games in last season’s Champions League, including the first leg of Liverpool’s round of 16 tie with Spanish giants Real Madrid and the first leg of the quarter-final meeting between Serie A rivals AC Milan and Napoli.
Kovacs earned praise from former Premier League officials Keith Hackett and Mark Halsey for his handling of Manchester City’s 4-3 win over Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final in April 2022.
Halsey told Caught Offside: “What a super game that was. It was 4-3 and it probably could’ve been 7-3. I thought the referee Istvan Kovacs handled the game very well. The advantage he played for Bernardo Silva’s goal was fantastic – textbook refereeing. There was a foul on Zinchenko, but he held his whistle but didn’t rush it, just held it and let play go on.
“Regarding the referees in the Champions League vs the ones we see in the Premier League…what you’ve got to remember is the ones selected by UEFA are the absolute elite group. They are the cream of the crop, the top referees in their country.”
Speaking via his social media, Hackett said: “This is what our guys should be doing. How many of our referees are up to the standard of this guy.”
Kovacs will be assisted by compatriots Vasile Florin Marinescu and Ovidiu Artene, with another Romanian, Marcel Birsan, named as fourth official. German official Marco Fritz has been handed VAR duties and he will be assisted by Dutchman Rob Dieperink.