Chelsea host Belgian champions Genk this Wednesday in our third of six Champions league group games. The relatively unknown Belgians, who we will face for the first time, currently sit bottom of the group, although they did gain a point at home to Valencia on match day one and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Chelsea are currently top of the group on 4 points, while Bayer are 2nd with 3 and Valencia are 3rd on 2, the second of which was picked up via their late equaliser from the spot when we visited the Mestalla last time out.
Andre will know that six points from this double header with Genk, we play them away on the 1st November, will put us in a very strong position going into the last two games, and although he will look to shuffle the pack slightly, as he has done for the previous two Champions League games, he knows that three points is vital in what is on paper our easiest of the six group ties. Torres, currently banned domestically, after being sent off against Swansea, is likely to be recalled while Drogba, who wasn’t at his best at the weekend in our 3-1 win at home to Everton, is likely to make way for him. In other team news, Ramires is definitely out, and is only 50-50 to be available for Sunday’s game away to QPR. It is likely Meireles will come in for him. Malouda and Kalou will push to start, but it will be difficult for Andre to drop either Sturridge or Mata, who are both on such blistering form of late. Luiz or Alex may come into the defence, particularly if Andre feels either J.T. or Ivanovic need a rest.
Genk hasn’t started too well domestically and have been troubled by injuries to several key players, including Torben Joneleit, defender Nadson and Czech winger Daniel Pudil. Whilst most of their squad is relatively unknown on these shores, there is no doubt they will come to Bridge well up for what is a huge test for them, looking to prove to their new manager Mario Been that they have what it takes to compete with Europe’s finest. They shouldn’t be underestimated, as games with Zilina and Rosenborg have proved in recent years that there is no easy game in Europe. One player to particularly look out for is midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who we were heavily linked with in the summer. Despite the fact the national team just missed out on a place in the play-offs for Euro 2012, Belgian football does indeed appear to be on the up, as emphasised by our signing of two Belgian youngsters over the summer, neither of whom, Lukaku (not registered) and Courtious (currently enjoying a loan spell at Atletico Madrid having signed for us from Genk) can unfortunately play, but I’m sure Andre would have asked them for an assessment and advice on the opposition. Andre himself faced Genk with Porto last season, and beat them home and away on the way to winning the Europa League.
We last faced Belgian opposition in the 2005/06 group stage, where we defeated Anderlecht 1-0 at home and 2-0 away. Andre would settle for two similar score lines in our upcoming games but there will be many Blues fans travelling to the Bridge tomorrow hoping for a rout.
How many will attend the game is a mystery, with group stage tickets having risen by 33%, a boycott has been planned and there is likely to only be around 25,000 in the stadium. Rumours that the club have given away free tickets to various parties to try to uphold their embarrassment at a half empty stadium, may not go down too well at a time when their creditability appears to be lessening with the current CPO issue, particularly after an appeal from the say no CPO team was hastily rejected.
Next Thursday could turn out to be a vital day in the club’s future, but before then we face three games in different competitions, with QPR away following this and Everton away in the carling cup coming the day before the CPO shareholders meeting.
The referee for tomorrow’s game will be the Russian A. Nikolaev. The Soccer AM team, who have adopted Genk as their team for the season, will be closely watching on, let’s hope they are left disappointed.
Enjoy the game.