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Genk survival at stake

Published: Monday 11 November 2002, 16.47CET
KRC Genk must beat Real Madrid CF in Group C if they are to prolong their European adventure.

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Published: Monday 11 November 2002, 16.47CET

Genk survival at stake

KRC Genk must beat Real Madrid CF in Group C if they are to prolong their European adventure.

By Patrick Hart

Belgian champions KRC Genk must beat Real Madrid CF in their final Group C game on Tuesday if they are to prolong their European adventure.

UEFA Cup goal
Sef Vergoossen's team have endured, rather than enjoyed, their first term in the UEFA Champions League. Yet they can at least salvage third place, and UEFA Cup entry, with a victory against the group leaders, provided AEK Athens FC fail to win at AS Roma.

Sonck the scorer
Even if AEK draw with the Italian side in Tuesday's other game, Genk will edge them out with a win given their superior head-to-head record. Wesley Sonck's goal in the 1-1 draw in Athens on Matchday Five followed a stalemate in Belgium.

First goal
Remarkably, it was Genk's first in the competition, and Sonck should have the chance to add to his tally having skipped the 4-0 weekend league defeat by leaders Club Brugge KV through suspension. "This performance is a little worrying coming a few days before the Madrid game - we were never in it," Vergoossen said.

Striking absences
While the trainer should recall Sonck, he will be without the Belgian international's regular strike partner Moumouni Dagano, who has been sidelined for a month after contracting malaria in his native Burkina Faso. "Our problem is that when Sonck and Moumouni are not there, there is no one to hold the ball up," said midfield player Bernd Thijs, whose colleague Koen Daerden serves a one-match ban.

'Difficult objective'
Vergoossen has been criticised for his unwillingness to change his tactics accordingly - and knows it will not be easy to appease his detractors against Madrid. "It will be difficult to achieve our objective of qualifying for the UEFA Cup as we are up against Real."

Del Bosque aim
The aim for Vicente del Bosque's men, meanwhile, will be to match or better Roma's result against AEK and so secure top spot in the section. Madrid's defeat by the Giallorossi last time out cost them their unbeaten record, but their place in the second group phase is assured.

Stars left out
For that reason, Del Bosque has left Raúl González, Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane out of the squad, while also resting Esteban Cambiasso and Claude Makelele. Ronaldo and Zidane picked up knocks in Saturday's 3-2 league win at Rayo Vallecano, and the coach is loath to risk them ahead of the game against Primera División leaders Real Sociedad next weekend.

'Competition for places'
One player likely to benefit from the turnover is striker Guti, who replaced Zidane at half-time against Rayo. "There is competition for places and that keeps the squad ticking over and everyone on their toes," he said. Since the Roma defeat, Madrid have beaten Rayo and Real Oviedo - the latter in the Spanish Cup, and drawn with RC Deportivo La Coruña.

The Madrid revival
So talk of a crisis was premature, and with first place in Group C the incentive, the Madrid revival could continue apace at the appropriately named Fenix Stadion.

Last updated: 13/11/02 0.10CET