As we all await for the current champions of Europe to begin their title defence against Villarreal tonight, and after already having dissected the two lineups, their strengths and weaknesses, and the ground realities, the question remains: Are we missing something here?
The answer is yes.
The missing link is the most important figure on the football field who can single-handedly decide the match—the referee.
Don’t believe me?
Ask Chile's U-20 side and they will tell you all you need to know about Mr. Wolfgang “The Wolf” Stark.
Born on November 20, 1969 in Landshut, Stark is a German football referee who officiates in the FIFA league. He has refereed matches in Champions League, qualification games for the European Football Championship, and the World Cup.
In 2007, he officiated at least two matches at the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, including Portugal vs. Gambia and the semifinal between Chile and Argentina.
But Stark’s claim to infamy came during FIFA World Cup U-20 semifinal between Chile and Argentina.
He lost control of the match with just six minutes gone—showing a yellow card to Argentine Mathias Cahias for bringing down Nicholas Medina of Chile, when it was clear it was a red card offence.
However things went from bad to worse in the match as Stark ended up issuing seven (out of nine) yellow cards and two reds against Chile, as well as denying one very apparent penalty appeal from Chile!
Following the match, Stark and his colleagues were surrounded by livid Chilean players who were restrained by members of the Toronto Police.
Stark then had to be escorted off of the pitch and into the dressing room tunnel by police officers for fear that he would be attacked by the crowd and/or Chilean players at the National Soccer Stadium.
Stark's performance is connected to a further ugly incident, in which Chilean players, still angry after losing the match, fought with and were pepper-sprayed by police officers outside of the stadium. The players were temporarily held inside the stadium by the police for several hours, but were released without being arrested.
Stark has apparently been very trigger happy as we delved into some research into his background. And we found another UEFA Cup tie between Barcelona and Celtic in which he had issued three red cards, two against Barcelona who were obviously not pleased with the referee as they lost the match 0-1 to Celtic.
In Beijing 2008, Stark was appointed for the USA vs Nigeria in the final pool game, and the match saw in total more than 18 offences deserving a yellow card but only two yellow cards were issued and a red card in the third minute!
His overall Bundesliga record speaks for itself, as it clearly shows he has officiated nine games in which he has issued more than five yellow cards and a red card at least.
Manchester United faces Villarreal in their opening encounter of the Champions League tonight under the supervision of Stark.
The question here is whether he is ready for the big stage, where he has fumbled so often before, or will another controversy ensue?
We can only but hope for the sake of the beautiful game that the game ends peacefully and without any ill contribution from "the Wolf".