Thursday brings Aston Villa to Athens to take on Olympiacos in Piraeus in Leg 2 of the Europa Conference League semi-finals. The English side trails by two goals after the first leg. Still, the club sitting fourth in the Premier League is rearing for a comeback in Europe. To advance to the championship match against Club Brugge or Fiorentina, they will need to win by a score of three goals or more at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.

Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was out with an injury and a ban for the first leg. However, he might get the nod to start the second leg, which could give Villa a lift. After a strong performance against Brighton on Sunday, Robin Olsen will likely go to the bench.

Conference League referee has a history of match-fixing

Villa’s comeback will be one of the storylines to follow in Greece. The main referee for the match recently served a six-month ban for a match-fixing incident in Germany. 42-year-old Felix Zwayer will officiate Thursday’s match. Despite his status as a UEFA “elite category” referee, the German has a checkered past.

Zwayer’s half-year ban came following his role in a match-fixing penalty in 2005, The Telegraph reports. Allegations surfaced that Robert Hoyzer, his fellow referee for the Bundesliga, had taken bribes to manipulate games. In their report, Zwayer and three other officials detailed the illicit actions. But as part of the lawsuit, Zwayer served a six-month suspension.

In 2021, during Borussia Dortmund‘s match against Bayern Munich, the event was brought up once more. The decision to dismiss Dortmund manager Marco Rose and not award a penalty was met with strong criticism. The game resulted in a 3-2 victory for Bayern, thanks to a goal by Robert Lewandowski.

What did Borussia Dortmund players say then?

Zwayer did not engage in match-fixing himself. Rather, he helped Hoyzer and took a bribe from him, leading to his ultimate punishment in 2005. In an interview, former Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham said: “You can look at a lot of other decisions in the game.

“If you give a referee, who has, you know, match-fixed before, the biggest game in Germany, what do you expect?” The German football federation ultimately fined Bellingham for his remarks.

But that didn’t stop former Dortmund striker Erling Haaland from slamming the referee as well: “As I said he was very arrogant. It seems like he wanted the headlines and he will get them now because he made many mistakes. He was not a good referee. What can I say? Not a good game from him.”

In the aftermath of the scandal, Zwayer stepped away from officiating. In February 2022, he made a comeback in a Europa League quarterfinal match between West Ham and Lyon, angering Moyes. The German booked Moyes for his complaints after the official gave Aaron Cresswell the marching orders.

Zwayer also presided over last summer’s Nations League final, which pitted Spain against Croatia. Among his accomplishments this season are the Europa League triumph for Brighton over Roma and Arsenal’s Champions League win against PSV Eindhoven.