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PREVIEW: Chelsea Vs. Racing Genk, 2011 UEFA Champions League

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I was going to have this preview up earlier, but my photo stream tool is a bunch of pictures of Andre Villas-Boas grinning madly and I had to go sit down for a little while...

Anyway, Chelsea vs. Genk at home is probably the easiest European match we'll have this season. With the Blues already getting a win against Bayer Leverkusen at home and then a draw against Valencia at the Mestalla, the back to back games against the group's minnows could well seal the six points the club needs to have reasonable assurance that a trip to the knockout rounds is locked up.

But as easy as that may seem, Chelsea cannot take Genk lightly. They've already managed to force Valencia into dropping two points, and if we all recall last year MSK Zilinia actually took the lead against us at Stamford Bridge before Danny Sturridge and Florent Malouda got the team a win with a pair of late goals. And Genk are much better than Zilina ever were.

It's slightly annoying that we didn't succeed in prying Kevin de Bruyne out of Genk's hands on August 31st, both because we'd have yet another lovely little prospect on our hands and we'd probably be able to force their best player to sit these two matches out. Perhaps Chelsea bought their back line, though - there appear to be zero fit defenders travelling to Stamford Bridge with David Hubert, Jeroen Simaeys and Torben Joneleit all staying at home and Nadsen also a huge doubt. Daniel Pudil, ostensibly a winger, has been forced to play at fullback and thus has been blighted with the curse as well.

In other words, the Genk lineup is going to really really weird. Obviously, they'll have to use midfielders playing out of position rather than going with a 0-9-1 or something (could Fernando Torres score against zero defenders?), but I don't think anyone but manager Mario Been knows what he's going to be doing here, and even that's an open question.

Of course, Chelsea are the better side, so they don't need to be reactive, they just need to deploy a strong team and let Genk work out what to do about it. With Ramires injured, there's an obvious hole in the midfield which rather limits Andre Villas-Boas' team flexibility if he wants to maintain a strong defensive base. The obvious solution for me is for John Obi Mikel and Raul Meireles to get some sort of timeshare on Wednesday so that one of them will be fit to hold on Sunday. Or we could stop babying the players and tell them to get on with, I suppose. That works too.

Speaking of babying players, John Terry probably needs a rest and I'd guess that Jose Bosingwa might as well. Ashley Cole doesn't get one on account of Ryan Bertrand being ineligible for the Champions League. Poor Ash. Also we should find Josh McEachran some playing time. I know, that sounds crazy, but he does still exist. Supposedly.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Alex, Branislav Ivanovic; Raul Meireles, Florent Malouda, Josh McEachran; Juan Mata, Fernando Torres, Nicolas Anelka.

And we'll go with a 3-0 win. Predicting clean sheets? I'm on dangerous ground there. Keep your eye out, of course, for Kevin de Bruyne.