Roma v Genk
The 24 year old is a man in form, scoring twice for Belgium during last week’s Euro 2004 qualifiers, and following that up with a brace against Beveren at the weekend. He scored 30 goals last season and was named as Belgium Player of the Year during Genk’s march to the Belgium Championship.
As a result Leeds United, Arsenal, Barcelona, Milan, Juventus, Lyon, PSV and Ajax have all sent scouts to watch him, and he was a constant threat when Roma edged out ten-man Genk 1-0 three weeks ago.
If Wesley Sonck is a man in form, then Roma are a team in form. After a poor start to the season, they have won their last four games, including a comfortable 3-1 win at Empoli at the weekend.
Despite losing their opening Group C game 3-0 to Real Madrid, Fabio Capello steadied the ship and has steered them to the brink of qualification.
Genk are bottom of the group with just a single point, and whether they are capable of testing Roma in their own backyard remains to be seen, but Capello is quick to warn of complacency.
“Genk are a solid unit, play fast counter-attacking football and are good inthe air so we will have to be careful at corners,” he acknowledged.
“For us this is an extremely important game and it will not be a simple one.”
Roma are likely to be unchanged, while Genk will be missing goalie Jan Moons, suspended as a result of his dismissal when the teams met on Matchday Three.
Spartak: Cherchesov, Kovtun, Kebe, Tchuisse, Baranov, Tsikhmeistruk , Kalinichenko, Danishevski, Matich, Bestchastnykh.
: Dudek, Carragher, Traore, Hyypia, Riise, Murphy, Hamann, Diao, Heskey, Baros, Owen
Real Madrid v AEK Athens
Real are without Figo, Raul and Zinedine Zidane as they seek to all but secure qualification to phase two.
The Greek side will not be a pushover for the favourites. Athens gave Real a mighty fright in the first clash between the sides, storming into a Vassilis Tsartas-inspired 3-1 lead, before goals from Zidane and Guti restored parity.
Tsartas scored a sublime free kick in that game, leading Real coach Vincent Del Bosque to comment: “We respect Tsartas as he is very dangerous at free-kicks.”
Tsartas, who used to ply his trade in Spain with Sevilla, went on to create other goals for AEK from dead balls and Del Bosque is aware of the need for vigilance tonight.
Madrid come into the encounter in the midst of a mini-crisis. A 2-0 weekend defeat at Racing Santander led ‘keeper Iker Casillas to call the display the “worst performance since I have been in the first team squad,” and it has also been revealed that club president Florentino Perez has not paid the first instalment to Internazionale for the signing of Ronaldo, and consequently, the Italians are threatening to ask for the player back.
AEK, who have drawn all three games so far, desperately need a win to keep up the pressure on Roma in second place, but will have to do it without Dimitrios Nalitzis and Milen Petkov who did not travel to Spain. Vassilios Borbokis is included in the squad, but is unlikely to start. Demis Nikolaidis, injured playing for Greece, should have recovered sufficiently to take his place upfront.