Belgian champions Genk start their Champions League campaign with the home game against Serbian side Partizan Belgrade, the team that made it to the third round by beating Skendija 5:0 on aggregate. The hosts are clearly the favourites here, but they will need to show that on the pitch as well.
Genk won the Belgian Super Cup
Genk have been recognized as one of the top Belgian teams over the last decade, and they have lately closed the gap behind sides like Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Standard Liege. Franky Vercauteren’s side finally managed to win league title last season, following the very exciting play-off stage and they now have a chance to make it to Champions League group stages for the second time in history. Experienced coach Franky Vercauteren has managed to build a very good side with Belgian international strikers Marvin Ogunjimi and Jelle Vossen the key players in the squad, alongside experienced midfielder Daniel Toszer, Elianiv Barda and Thomas Buffel. Following the impressive last season, the most important thing was to keep the squad together and that is exactly what the club management have done, with the exception of promising keeper Thibaut Courtois, who signed for Chelsea. Genk have prepared well for this game, having beaten Lyon 3:1 in a friendly before winning the Belgian Super Cup by beating Standard Liege in the final, despite having a man sent off before the half-hour mark.
Coach Franky Vercauteren has absolutely no injury worries and he will be able to field his strongest side.
Partizan in problems
Having won the Serbian League title for the first time in a row, Partizan again made it to the Champions League qualifying stages, where they will meet the Belgian champions for the second time in a row. Last season, they were very lucky to eliminate Anderlecht after penalties and made it to the group stage, where they have lost all six games, once again proving that they lack the required quality to compete at the biggest stage. Partizan have since stayed without key striker Cleo, important defenders Stefan Savic, Mladen Krstajic and Marko Jovanovic, while Ljubomir Fejsa and Milan Smiljanic also left the club. The club have brought quite a few new players this summer, but striker Eduardo and defender Volkov are the only ones who have shown some promise so far, while jury is still out on other signings. Being evidently weaker than last season, it was no wonder that Partizan experienced big problems against Skendija, especially in FYR Macedonia, en though the result would suggest otherwise. Coach Aleksandar Stanojevic has big problems at the moment as the new signings didn’t have enough time to gel and this rustiness should prove to be a big issue in the clashes with very good Genk side.
New signing Anderson has picked up an injury and he is out of this tie, meaning that his place will be taken by Nemanja Rnic, who has joined the club just several days ago, following an unsuccessful spell at Anderlecht. Aleksandar Miljkovic and Aleksandar Lazevski are unlikely to feature, while Radoslav Petrovic is also out.
Having kept the entire squad from last season, Genk coach Franky Vercauteren didn’t need a lot of time to get his team playing the way they should and he is set to field the same side that beat Standard Liege in the Super Cup with ten men on the pitch. Partizan are light years away from their top form and severe defensive problems only add to the worries. I expect a comfortable win for Genk.
Our prediction: Genk with -0.75 Asian handicap
Odds: 2.05 (21/20)