Sep 2, 2011
With the 2011-2012 UEFA Champions League group stage getting under way in a couple of weeks, we’re here to provide an introduction to some of the competition’s less-familiar faces. Their opponents will do everything they can to deprive these teams of a warm welcome, so we figure it’s the least we can do.
To most, Genk will sound like another Champions League debutant, but it’s actually the club’s second venture into the tournament’s group stage. Genk made its first appearance in the group stage in 2002-2003 and booked this second ticket by way of penalty shootout against Maccabi Haifa F.C. Genk holds three Belgian titles, including last year’s, and since winning its first in 1999 has become one of the strongest Belgian clubs over the last decade, regularly qualifying for Europe. Genk’s success should impress, given that the club’s technically only been around since 1988 when KFC Winterslag and K Waterschei SV Thor Genk merged.
Keeping in mind the proper proportions between the English Premier League and the Belgian Pro League, Genk is comparable to Chelsea F.C. They’ve had most of their success over the last decade or so and always fair well in the league without consistently dominating the title. But pleasant association with Chelsea will probably stop their for Genk as the Belgians have drawn the English giants in Group E. Additionally, Genk will play Bayer Leverkusen and Valencia, who the club opens group play against at home. In its previous adventure in the Champions League group stage Genk failed to advance, and a difficult draw this year makes a similar fate an easy prediction.
Founded in 1926, APOEL of Cyprus is the most decorated club in the Cypriot First division with 21 championships, 19 Cypriot Cup titles and 12 domestic cups. During the 1995-96 season, APOEL turned heads by earning a double while going undefeated in the league — one of the more sterling seasons in the club’s successful history.
APOEL makes its second appearance in the group stage and is once again in a group with F.C. Porto as it was in 2009. The Europa League champions have to be the favorites, but with Zenit of Russia and Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine rounding out the group, APOEL’s surely excited about being drawn into one of the competition’s more manageable groups. Shakhtar put together a dream run last year and Porto are always European contenders, but this looks to be the most open group in the tournament, and APOEL could be a profitable bet.