MICHAEL Oliver will referee the 2016 Capital One Cup Final between North West rivals Liverpool and Manchester City later this month, the Football League has confirmed.
The 30-year-old will take charge of an eighth game at Wembley in his career when the two Premier League giants compete for the first domestic trophy of the season on Sunday, February 28 (KO 16:00 GMT).
He will be assisted by linesmen Adrian Holmes (West Yorkshire) and Simon Bennett (Staffordshire) while the fourth official will be Bobby Madley (West Yorkshire) and Eddie Smart (West Midlands) is the reserve assistant referee.
Oliver, from Northumberland, was in the middle for City’s 3-0 defeat by Arsenal in the Community Shield and Liverpool’s 2-1 FA Cup semi-final loss to Aston Villa last season.
He has also handled two other FA Cup semi-finals and last season’s FA Trophy Final between Wrexham and North Ferriby United as well as the 2007 Conference Play-Off Final and 2009 League One Play-Off Final at the national stadium.
Oliver – a former Newcastle youth player – was also fourth official for both the Capital One Cup Final and Community Shield in 2013.
The high-profile appointments in his relatively short professional career include being an additional assistant referee for the 2014 Uefa Super Cup in Cardiff – a role he could fulfill as part of Mark Clattenburg or Martin Atkinson’s officiating team for Euro 2016.
It was widely predicted among refereeing circles that Andre Marriner and Mike Jones were the front-runners to take charge of the 55th League Cup Final but it is deserved recognition for Oliver for a number of consistent displays in 2015-16.
The Ashingdon-based whistler has officiated 21 games in all competitions so far this season – brandishing 69 yellow cards, sending off five players and awarding nine penalties.
Oliver didn’t officiate a game for six weeks across October and November after being selected for the U17 World Cup in Chile – where he oversaw three games including the final between Mali and Nigeria alongside Stuart Burt and Gary Beswick.
His most recent game was last Sunday’s 1-1 draw between Chelsea and Manchester United in which he issued three bookings but was accused by United boss Louis van Gaal afterwards of giving Chelsea too many free-kicks late in the game.
Last week, it was rumoured that Oliver has been selected by United skipper Wayne Rooney to referee his testimonial at Old Trafford in the summer.
Earlier this season, Oliver made headlines when stepping in to replace an injured official at a women’s match being refereed by his wife Lucy, while he stepped down as head of Northumberland FA’s referee academy in November 2014.
Oliver – whose father Clive was a Football League referee until retiring in 2009 – became the youngest official in Premier League history when he was in the middle for Birmingham’s 2-1 victory over Blackburn in August 2010.
He had spent three years in the Football League and four years at non-league level before gaining promotion to the Select Group at the start of the 2010-11 season – and progressed to Fifa level in 2012 having impressed in handling over 120 top-flight matches.
The highly-rated Fifa Category One official first took up the whistle in 2003 and remains the joint youngest among the 17 full-time referees in the Premier League along with Madley.
He is still yet to take charge of a Championship Play-Off Final or the FA Cup Final – the most prestigious honour which only comes once in a referee’s career.
Oliver is widely regarded as one of the best officials in the country who is regularly considered for high-profile games and is tipped to be England’s refereeing representative at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
He has not encountered City since their 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace last April but oversaw Liverpool’s goalless draw at Arsenal in August and 3-1 defeat at Manchester United in September.
2014 League Cup winners City will be hoping to claim the first silverware of a potential quadruple before Manuel Pellegrini’s summer departure.
But Liverpool – who beat City 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals on their way to winning the competition for a record eighth time in 2012 – will take inspiration from their 4-1 win over City at the Etihad Stadium back in November as they bid for a maiden trophy under Jurgen Klopp.
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