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CL Preview: Genk v. Chelsea

To preface, I'm not wholly satisfied with the catharsis I've employed since Saturday. Seems my best efforts to cleanse the memories of what transpired have failed - and I'm extremely fucking bitter. I'm usually glass-half-full, but I'd be lying if I said there was anything worth drinking at the moment. There are problems everywhere, and this doesn't stem from one loss. There have been categoric shortcomings all season long - they've just been masked by better attacking displays. Saturday was awful, without question - but, I realize it doesn't define anything yet. It hasn't determined the season, and it has yet to decide who will be atop the standings come May. But, if history is to repeat itself, then we're right on schedule for our annual November swoon. Cue the bagpipes. Still, there's work to be done, and the small matter of a Champions League fixture against a Genk side that we bullied into submission two weeks ago. Back when we were high on life and shit. Remember two weeks ago? John Terry was just an asshole to the world at large, not a 'racist' one - the brothers Ferdinand were anonymous - we played matches with 11 players - and our high defensive line was a worry, but not a substantial one. More, after the jump:


Sticking to his principles

Saturday was an absolute mess. Jack, bless his heart, had the unfortunate responsibility of transcribing the madness for you lot to consume. I couldn't bring myself to do it. If I ever run for public office, and these emails become available for all to read, you will note my steadfast refusal on all grounds to go anywhere near this colossal fuck-up of a match. Couldn't do it, even if you paid me. There's nothing fickle or fair-weather in my assessment of our display, mind you. I'm as loyal as it gets and frankly I'd rather watch us lose week in and week out then bear the thought of turning my back ever on this club. But, we can all admit that this was as poor of a defensive showing as we've conjured in years. YEARS. Even during Carlo's 'bad moment' it never got this awful did it? (Scratch that- I remember the 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Sunderland last season at the Bridge. That was some shit).

I went from full-blown freak-out status to calm complacency over the weekend, and somehow I woke up this morning bitter as all hell. Try as I might to put what happened in the rear view, I just can't. There were mistakes everywhere- I mean everywhere. According to the reports circulating on Sunday, AVB put the squad through their paces, but not before unleashing some Fergie-style hairdryer treatment for all to behold. Indications are that all players received the lashing, rather than in years past when individuals were singled out for praise or punishment. Obviously, in line with his team approach, Villas-Boas proceeded to put the squad through an intense training session that focused on plugging the defensive gaps, and also addressing the small matter of the high defensive line. In his post match commentary, Villas-Boas refused to back down from his belief that the squad were going to continue playing an aggressive attacking style, brushing aside speculation that we might have an inherent defensive crisis. Quotes include:

"It's a stance you have to take, you have to reflect on what are the values of the English culture and British football. I think those values are well present. Even if we rule out Arsenal's last two goals, we still need to analyse the other three they scored. But, before this game, we were one of the three best defences in the Premier League. Nobody would bet on the results that have been happening in the Premier League this season."

"The results that are happening reflect how chaotic the game is and how beautiful it is at the same time. For the fans, it is a good spectacle, for the neutral supporter. For the supporter of that team, you want to play beautiful football and you want to win. So we need to get the two together."

"Everyone is praising a strong, attacking team like Man City and we are exactly the same. We just have to make the most of our opportunities and try to score them."

So yeah, dude isn't backing down. He seems to have a touch of snark in those quotes, bringing City into the mix. But lets not get ahead of ourselves- we aren't playing with City's verve, and we've not shown the prolific ability they have in front of goal. Instead, we've just been riding the roller coaster of transitioning, and with that comes the inevitable cock-up we experienced on Saturday. No, I'm not making excuses - simply trying to offer additional perspective a la Jack.

I believe, that a game quickly after the fact is the best medicine to cure what ails us. It won't necessarily rid us of the 'infection' but it's better to kick on with the business of establishing a new rhythm, and most importantly, washing away the awfulness that was Arsenal. Fortunately, we face a Genk side that we thrashed last time- although it can be argued that they're a side on the ascendancy after a fine weekend performance, including a hat-trick for Kevin de Bruyne. On to the specifics:

Who: Koninklijke Racing Club Genk (est. 1988)
What: Champions League Group E, Matchday 4
When: 1 November, 7:45pm local time (3:45 EDT)
Where: Cristal Arena (24,956)
How: Fox Soccer Channel (DirecTV 619, Dish Network 406)

Why: No further explanation necessary. See above. Remember the weekend. Recall QPR. That's why.

Team Sheet: Chelsea enter the match with an almost identical squad. Among those out for this fixture are Didier Drogba, who went under the knife this week to have screws removed from his arm- you'll recall the injury he received during the World Cup last year was the culprit. Elsewhere, John Obi Mikel is rested and will not travel with the squad for the match. Otherwise, Hilario continues to be absent with the flu, while The Bison is our only long-term absentee. Man, we could really use his grit in the midfield at the moment, I'll admit. Otherwise, it's almost a complete squad to choose from, and you can be certain that AVB will be tinkering with the mix in the hopes of firing the squad forward to a victory. I can't expect there to be a significant change to the front line, although, many would suggest that Danny get dropped to the bench in favor of Anelka, Kalou, or Flo. With the midfield, I think Frank could earn a rest, but I would hate to see that. As woeful as we were on Saturday, Frank's passing- particularly in the first half, was resplendent. Ramires looked a step slow in the match, and gradually grew to pace, but otherwise, might be sacrificed for Raul Meireles tenacity. Elsewhere, Ashley Cole retains his spot in the defense, but the remaining three spots are up for grabs. I don't anticipate EBALJT getting a rest here- even if he did manage to make matters worse over the weekend. I'd expect Villas-Boas to give John a backing here and throw him back out for a shot a redemption. Now, here's where it gets tricky.

Right back. Right fucking back. Jack when into detail on this, and I'd agree that Bosingwa has been playing marginally well all season. But Saturday was appalling and in no small part to his inability to track back defensively. I'd expect that something shakes up in this regard, and if I had to speculate, I'd see Bane moving to the right next to David Luiz. But, there's also a chance that Bane needs a break with all the heavy lifting he's done these past three matches- which if so, leads me to expect Paulo could get a run out. Not exactly the answer and certainly a worrisome thought when playing a high defensive line due to his poor speed. But, this is Genk. And even though we want a maximum haul of points, I think we'd be safe throwing Paulo out there alongside Bob who can make up the yards in support. So, based on this I'd expect:

Screen Shot 2011-10-31 at 1.53.30 PM

Bench: Turnbull, Alex, Lampard, Malouda, Kalou, Sturridge, Josh

Okay, so this is a combination of what AVB might do, mixed with what I'd want to see tomorrow. I think Oriol is worthy of a start in midfield, and I believe Paulo will be called in to cover the right-back slow. I do feel that Luiz will also get a cameo seeing as how his speed will be handy in helping out the Paulo-JT combination. Elsewhere, Anelka slots into the right attacking position to provide, ideally, some better service for Fernando then Danny could muster. I really don't want to slate Studge because he's been rather excellent this campaign, by goodness, he made some awful decisions on Saturday. I mean, we're talking Kalou status. But, I daresay this lineup has enough firepower to see us past Genk, even if it's a home match for the Belgians. Villas-Boas, for his part, is giving nothing away, refusing to offer any idea of what the team might be before tomorrow. So, we'll just have to wait and see then.

I'm guardedly optimistic of our chances. Anytime you venture out on the road in the CL it's a massive undertaking, and even if Genk were abysmal the last time we faced them, you can bet they'll be amped up and ready for battle tomorrow. They'll be looking to pounce on us early and extend this miserable stretch that we're mired in- so if I were the coaching staff, I'd start with a more disciplined, deeper back line than in previous outings. I'd let the squad settle in, and after about 20 minutes or so, I'd start pushing that line further up the pitch to provide support in attack. But out of the gates? Keep calm, stay firm, and prevent any over-the-top passes. Please. And yeah, let's see if we can keep a clean sheet again- lord knows that looks beyond impossible at the moment.

I mentioned earlier we're up against a Genk outfit that's been playing well of late. That's not necessarily true. Since we drubbed them two weeks ago, they've improved - including a come from behind 5-4 victory at the weekend against Brugge. But that improvement is marginal at best. They've won only two of their last seven matches in all competitions. Although they may be scoring goals, they've been woeful at the back. Hey look! They're playing like we are! Now, Genk have yet to score in the CL this year, and I'd really prefer if their maiden goal didn't come at our expense. But I can feel it, nay, I expect it to happen tomorrow. 76th minute, I'm calling it now. They won't win mind, but they will net. I just have that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that it'll happen. We've only conceded one goal in the CL thus far, and have the second best attacking/defensive record thus far.

We may be playing like idiots domestically, but on international turf we've been more than fine. It's time to put everything in the past and kick on with what should be a comfortable victory. We have the talent, experience, patience, support, and coaching acumen to weather this adversity and come out better for it. It's time to move on, and I think we can all agree that a match can't come soon enough.

Carefree, friends. KTBFFH. Up the Chels.

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