After both finished runners-up in their domestic league last term, Servette and Genk now begin their quest for a place in the Champions League with the first leg of their second qualifying round tie on Tuesday.
While the Swiss side finished far behind Young Boys in the race for Super League glory, their Belgian counterparts were pipped at the post in the most agonizing fashion imaginable.
By ending the 2022-23 campaign one point above Lugano, to finish a distant second in the Swiss Super League, Servette booked themselves a place in qualification for Europe’s top club competition.
Traditionally one of Switzerland’s most successful clubs, winning 17 national titles and seven Swiss cups, the Romandy club have more recently faded from significance, amid spells of financial strife.
Under former national team defender Alain Geiger – who captained his country at the 1994 World Cup – Servette were promoted back to the Super League at the end of his first season, and after a period of consolidation in the top flight, last term they secured second spot in his final game in charge.
Ex-Anderlecht and Al Ahly coach Rene Weiler has since taken the reins at Stade de Geneve, where Les Grenats will now host Genk on Tuesday evening.
In preparation for their task of negotiating three qualifying rounds to secure an unprecedented place in the Champions League group stage, Servette recently won four straight friendlies – conceding just two goals in the process – before beating Grasshoppers 3-1 in their first fixture of the new Super League season.
Meanwhile, Genk have returned to action following a heartbreaking conclusion to 2022-23 by posting three victories from five warm-up matches; most notably over Premier League side Burnley, in a 2-0 win on Saturday.
Yira Sor and Tolu Arokodare were on target at Cegeka Arena, with the latter firing home a late winner from inside the area to deny Vincent Kompany’s men a draw.
Victims of a spectacular last-gasp Toby Alderweireld strike which saw them miss out on the Belgian Pro League title to final-day opponents Antwerp by a point, Wouter Vrancken’s side had to settle for second place in a dramatic three-way tussle for the crown last season.
Genk lost star striker Paul Onuachu to Southampton midway through their title push, but they have been busy in the summer transfer market with a place at Europe’s top table up for grabs: most notably, having featured on this year’s Golden Boy longlist, Christopher Baah arrived from Sarpsborg on a five-year deal.
Belgium’s highest-scoring team last term, the Blauw-Wit will now aim to progress all the way through the Champions League’s qualifiers for the first time since 2019, when they went on to finish fourth in a group featuring Liverpool, Napoli and RB Salzburg.
Servette form (all competitions):
Genk form (all competitions):
We say: Servette 1-2 Genk
While Servette have adapted to life under new management quite seamlessly, they have yet to tackle opponents as well-drilled as a Genk side which came within minutes of being crowned Belgian champions just last month.
The visitors also held their own against Sporting and Burnley this summer, so should be capable of taking a slim lead with them into next week’s second leg.