MARTIN Atkinson has been confirmed as the referee for the decisive Premier League encounter between last season’s top two on the second weekend of the campaign.
The 44-year-old from West Yorkshire will take charge of champions Chelsea’s early-season trip to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City on Sunday (KO 4pm, live on Sky Sports).
He will be assisted by Fifa linesmen Mike Mullarkey and Stephen Child while the fourth official will be Jon Moss, who oversaw the first league match of the 2015-16 season across the city at Old Trafford.
Bradford-based Atkinson – last season’s Europa League Final referee – will also be the fourth official for Sunderland’s clash with Norwich City at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
The Fifa Elite Category whistler was in the middle for Arsenal’s surprise 2-0 defeat by London rivals West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium last Sunday and issued four yellow cards.
The Leeds United supporter’s last trip to the Etihad Stadium came on the final day of the 2013-14 campaign when City beat West Ham 2-0 to clinch their second Premier League title in three years.
He handled four Chelsea matches in 2014-15 – their 2-0 win over Arsenal in October, their first league defeat of the season at Newcastle in December, the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg at Anfield and 1-1 draw with Burnley in February in which he was heavily criticised.
Atkinson failed to send off Ashley Barnes for a reckless challenge on Nemanja Matic, who was dismissed for his reaction. He also turned down three Chelsea penalty appeals and was left out for the next round of Premier League games.
Atkinson refereed 48 games across all competitions last season – brandishing 193 yellow cards, sending off 11 players (seven in the Premier League) and awarding 13 penalties.
Among his other 2014-15 highlights were FA Cup and League Cup semis, two Liverpool v Manchester United clashes, Merseyside and north London derbies, two Euro 2016 qualifiers and international friendlies between Brazil and Chile and Scotland and Northern Ireland.
On the continental stage, he was in charge of eight Champions League games including the quarter-final second leg between Bayern Munich and Porto and Juventus’ 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final.
His progress culminated in the deserved appointment to the Europa League showpiece in the Polish capital Warsaw in May as Sevilla retained the trophy by beating Dnipro 3-2.
Domestically, Atkinson has completed the set of major finals having refereed the 2007 FA Community Shield, the 2011 FA Cup Final, the 2013 Championship Play-Off Final, the 2014 Capital One Cup Final and 2014 Women’s FA Cup Final.
Surprisingly, it will be the first time Atkinson takes charge of a Premier League game between these two top-four rivals.
Last season, both league meetings between City and Chelsea ended in 1-1 draws which were officiated by Mike Dean and Mark Clattenburg.
ELSEWHERE THIS WEEKEND….
Mike Dean will take charge of the Friday night clash between Aston Villa and Manchester United at Villa Park (KO 7:45pm, live on Sky Sports).
The 47-year-old from the Wirral will be assisted by linesmen Simon Bennett and Simon Long while the fourth official will be Lee Mason – who was in the middle for the corresponding fixture last season in which he controversially sent off Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Dean – who oversaw United’s games against Chelsea and Arsenal late last season – issued five yellow cards when handling Manchester City’s 3-0 win over West Brom on Monday night in the opening weekend.
It will be the first top-flight match on a Friday night since September 2003 because an EDL march on Saturday will occupy West Midlands Police resources and United cannot play on Sunday due to their Champions League play-off first leg next Tuesday night.
Michael Oliver is in the middle for Southampton’s first Premier League home game of the new season against Everton on Saturday (KO 12:45pm, live on BT Sport).
The 30-year-old Fifa whistler from Northumberland took charge of the corresponding fixture at St Mary’s two seasons ago which the Saints won 2-0 courtesy of two own goals.
He was in the thick of the opening weekend action last Saturday when sending off Chelsea keeper Thibault Courtois in the champions’ 2-2 draw with Swansea at Stamford Bridge – and was the fourth official for Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat to West Ham on Sunday.
Oliver will be assisted by Stuart Burt and Lee Betts with Craig Pawson on fourth official duties.
Lancashire’s Lee Mason has been assigned to the London derby between Crystal Palace and Arsenal at Selhurst Park on Sunday afternoon (KO 1:30pm, live on Sky Sports).
The 43-year-old from Bolton – in his 10th season as a Select Group referee – was in charge of Leicester’s 4-2 win over Sunderland on the opening weekend.
He will be assisted by linesmen Scott Ledger and Edward Smart while the fourth official will be Robert Madley – the West Yorkshire official who will be in the middle for Spurs against Stoke on Saturday.
Mason officiated 25 top-flight games last term – sending off five players – and the Championship play-off semi-final second leg between Middlesbrough and Brentford in May.
On Monday night, Fifa referee Craig Pawson will oversee Bournemouth’s first-ever away Premier League game against Liverpool at Anfield (KO 8pm, live on Sky Sports).
The 36-year-old from South Yorkshire was in charge of Newcastle’s 2-2 draw with Southampton at St James’s Park on the opening weekend of the season.
Sheffield-based Pawson – in his third season as a Select Group official – handled 21 top-flight games last term but only seven since the turn of the year.
He will be assisted by linesmen Harry Lennard and Andy Garratt with Mike Jones – the referee for Saturday’s match between Swansea and Newcastle – in charge of electronic board duties.
SATURDAY’S OTHER GAMES….