By Svend Frandsen
Francesco Totti returns to UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday night as AS Roma look to kick-start their campaign away to KRC Genk.
The Roma captain is available again after completing the suspension that ruled him out of the two opening Group C games, and on the evidence of last Sunday, the Italian international's presence will undoubtedly lift his side. Totti underlined his value to Roma by scoring a hat-trick to secure the Giallorossi's first win of the season, 3-2 at Brescia Calcio.
'Out of the tunnel'
The 26-year-old playmaker suggested afterwards that, after defeats in their first two league games, the victory in Brescia signalled "an end to the problems we have experienced at the start of the season". He added: "We have come out of the tunnel and now we must build on this display in the Champions League."
While this is Genk's first meeting with Italian opposition, Roma have mixed memories of past visits to Belgium, which have yielded one win, three draws and two defeats. Both sides have just one point from two games in this season's competition, and, according to Roma coach Fabio Capello, Wednesday's game could prove a defining moment. "Many things will be settled in the match against Genk," he said. "Real Madrid [CF] are the favourites in the group and they are almost beyond the rest of the competition. My team is having difficulty in scoring and we must put that right."
Capello's Genk counterpart, Sef Vergoossen, has also faced the task of restoring morale, in his case after a 6-0 defeat by reigning champions Real Madrid CF on Matchday Two. Vergoossen felt his side "did not deserve such a heavy defeat" in Madrid and the Belgian champions returned to winning ways over the weekend when they beat RAA Louviéroise 1-0.
Beli Moumouni Dagano and Miršad Beslija were both rested in that match but will return to face Roma, along with midfield player Bernd Thijs who is available again after suspension. Vergoossen added: "Roma have also struggled in the opening stages of this tournament and this could be our chance to get the confidence back into my players."
An injury to Roma goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli against Brescia could boost Genk's prospects. Antonioli is a serious doubt after twisting an ankle and with his regular deputy Ivan Pelizzoli still recovering from injury, Capello could be forced to hand a debut to youngster Carlo Zotti. Then again, given neither Genk nor Roma have scored yet in the competition, Antonioli's fitness may not be as significant as it seems.
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