Since Racing Genk won the Jupiler League championship, there has been a succession of problems at the Cristal Arena. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a few players left as they had been in the spotlight due to the title win. They included Thibaut Courtois – to Chelsea – Eric Matoukou and Liverpool loanee Chris Mavinga. That decimated the defence and the issue was exacerbated when two new defenders, brought in during the pre-season, received long term injuries and regular centre back Torben Joneleit was also sidelined for months with knee damage.
More surprising was Franky Vercauteren’s departure to Abu Dhabi, claiming that he was concerned that transfer talk was upsetting the club. His dash for the petro-dollars was a bit unseemly but, these days, understandable. He’s been replaced by Dutch coach Mario Been, sacked by Feyenoord last season.
To add to the concerns, international striker Marvin Ogunjimi joined Majorca but had to come back (figuratively speaking) as his registration arrived at UEFA headquarters seven minutes too late – his head is therefore in two places. Kevin De Bruyne was injured and has only just returned – he has yet to find his form. De Bruyne was also denied a move to … Chelsea … in the summer. Finally captain and defensive midfield shield David Hubert has been ruled out for several weeks with an abdominal injury.
So Genk travel to London with a makeshift defence and midfield and with a side that to an extent is only half focused on the future; a side that has only won three in ten league games. Vice-captain Daniel Tozser is likely to move out of midfield to plug a defensive gap and that will give the whole side a lopsided look. Names that UK followers will recognise include ex-Glasgow Ranger Thomas Buffel on the right wing and, perhaps, ex-Portsmouth utility player Anthony Vanden Borre in midfield. Caution is advised regarding the latter though as the new coach does not seem to fancy him too much.
Tozser has said that anything is possible, even against Chelsea; however, it’s hard to see Genk getting much in terms of points. In the return match in two weeks time they will be hoping for one point at least. Even if they achieve that, it’s likely that a draw would not be enough to give them a chance of third place. It would have been good to see Vercauteren and his 2010-2011 side all fit and raring to go in London but that was then and now is now!