West Ham United v KRC Genk - All You Need To Know

West Ham v Genk - All You Need To Know


West Ham United’s UEFA Europa League Group H campaign continues on Thursday evening with the visit of Belgian Cup holders KRC Genk to east London.

Having defeated Dinamo Zagreb away and Rapid Vienna at home - both by 2-0 scorelines - in our opening two group-stage ties, the Hammers sit top of the table, and a third victory would push David Moyes' squad closer to finishing first and qualifying automatically for the post-Christmas round of 16.

West Ham's perfect start included goals in each tie from Declan Rice, plus strikes from Michail Antonio and Saïd Benrahma, as the Irons celebrated their Europa League debut with a pair of impressive performances.

And the Irons will need to be at their best again to defeat a Genk side who finished second in the Belgian Premier Division A last season have been crowned national champions on four occasions since being formed by a merger between two local clubs in 1988.

However, The Smurfs do arrive in England on a run of three straight defeats in all competitions, having lost at home to Dinamo Zagreb in their most-recent Europa League tie before being beaten in their domestic league by Eupen and Charleroi.

Kick-off at London Stadium is at 8pm and tickets for Thursday's tie are still available here!


Ticket News

It’s not too late to secure your ticket for our second UEFA Europa League Group H home game!

Head to eticketing.co.uk/whufc now to book your seat, with tickets starting at just £30 Adults and £15 Kids!

If you’re coming to the game, make sure you head to the Stadium Store before you get to your seat to kit yourself out in our European Tour range.

For those planning to attend, a DJ will be performing at the Heineken Bar from 5.30pm-7.30pm, between Turnstiles J and H. Supporters will also be able to enjoy a pre-match light show from 7.45pm.


How to follow

Thursday’s kick-off is at 8pm, and the tie will be broadcast live in the UK on BT Sport. If you live overseas you might be able to watch the game live too, so please check local listings for coverage in your territory.

We will also be covering the game live with a blog and audio commentary on whufc.com and our Official App and across our social media channels, with goals, highlights and exclusive reaction to follow after the final whistle.


Team News

David Moyes handed starts to Alphonse Areola, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Mark Noble, Andriy Yarmolenko and Nikola Vlašić in the 2-0 home win over Rapid Vienna and the same players could be set to feature from the kick-off again against Genk.

Manuel Lanzini and Arthur Masuaku will also hope for minutes, as the manager may opt to rest his regular starters ahead of Sunday's Premier League fixture with Tottenham Hotspur at London Stadium.

Tomáš Souček has recovered after receiving stitches in a facial wound suffered at Everton on Sunday, but it remains to be seen if Noble, Vladimír Coufal, Alex Král or Ryan Fredericks will recover from their respective injuries in time for Thursday's game.


The Opposition

The 1980s saw the launch of both KRC (Koninklijke Racing Club) Genk and the cartoon series which has provided the Belgian Cup winners their nickname, The Smurfs.

And, like the small blue, humanoid creatures who live in mushroom-shaped houses in the forest, Genk’s staff, players and supporters have worked together, shared and cooperated to become one of the most-successful clubs in their country’s history.

Genk was formed as recently as 1988 – six years after the original The Smurfs animated cartoon series was first broadcast by ITV on Sunday lunchtimes – following a merger between local clubs Waterschei Thor and KFC Winterslag.

In the 33 years since, the club has enjoyed sustained success, winning four Belgian First Division titles, five Belgian Cups and two Belgian Super Cups.
Over the past two decades, The Smurfs have finished outside the top eight on just two occasions – in 2007/08 and 2009/10.


Genk celebrate winning the Belgian Super Cup in 2011
Genk celebrate winning the Belgian Super Cup in 2011


For a club that is not part of Belgium’s traditional De Grote Drie/Les Trois Grands (The Big Three) of Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Standard Liège, and without the long history of the likes of Royal Antwerp, Beerschot, Mechelen or Saint-Gilloise, Genk’s list of honours won is nothing short of sensational.

And like the cartoon characters, who ride storks in order to travel long distances, Genk have also made their mark in foreign lands, qualifying for Europe on no fewer than 17 occasions in their 33-season existence.

After making their continental debut in the 1997 UEFA Intertoto Cup, Genk have twice reached the UEFA Champions League group stage, in 2002/03 and 2011/12, and went as far as the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals in 2016/17, defeating a certain Astra Giurgiu along the way.

On Thursday, The Smurfs will contest their 117th competitive European fixture, having put together another impressive campaign last term to finish second in the Belgian First Division and defeated Anderlecht and Standard Liège on their way to lifting the Belgian Cup.


Genk have become one of Belgium's top teams in recent decades
Genk have become one of Belgium's top teams in recent decades


While Genk’s past and present are both hugely impressive, the club also takes care of its future by producing top-class players at its outstanding Academy and scouting far and wide for promising overseas talent.

Among the instantly recognisable names produced by The Smurfs in recent years were future Belgium internationals and Premier League stars Kevin De Bruyne, Christian Benteke and Thibaut Courtois, while the likes of Wilfred Ndidi, Kalidou Koulibaly, Leon Bailey and Sergej Milinković-Savić all spent time with the club as young players.

So, with a multi-talented squad, a productive Academy and scouting network, a successful manager in former Netherlands midfielder John van den Brom and a smart, modern stadium in the 23,700-capacity Cegeka Arena, Genk look well set to be smurfing at the top of both Belgian and European football for many years to come.


Previous meetings

West Ham United face Belgian opposition for the third time in European competition on Thursday evening.

The Irons’ two previous meetings with clubs from the country were both historic occasions, with La Gantoise – now KAA Gent – providing West Ham’s first-ever competitive European opposition back in 1964, and RSC Anderlecht doing so in the 1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup final.

The Irons may not have met KRC Genk since the club’s foundation in 1988, but the Hammers did meet one of the two clubs who merged to form tonight’s visitors – Thor Waterschei.

John Lyall took the Hammers to the pre-season Arminia Bielefeld Tournament in early August 1983, where they were beaten 3-1 by Dutch side Ajax in the semi-finals.


Johnny Byrne scores against La Gantoise at the Boleyn Ground in October 1964
Johnny Byrne scores against La Gantoise at the Boleyn Ground in October 1964


With the Belgians losing to the hosts in their own semi-final, the Irons faced Waterschei in the third/fourth play-off at the Bielefelder Alm stadium.

An exciting match ensued, with Alan Devonshire seeing a shot cleared off the line and Phil Parkes saving a penalty inside the opening 12 minutes.

Devonshire then set up Paul Goddard to put West Ham in front on 29 minutes, but Waterschei were back on level terms when they equalised shortly after half-time.

The game ended 1-1 and went to a penalty shootout. Although Parkes saved the first Waterschei penalty, two unnamed West Ham players missed and the Belgians edged the tie 4-3 on spot-kicks.


Match Officials


Referee: Donatas Rumšas (Lithuania)
Assistant Referees: Aleksandr Radius (Lithuania) and Dovydas Sužiedėlis  (Lithuania)
Fourth Official: Robertas Valikonis (Lithuania)
VAR: Ricardo de Burgos (Spain)
Assistant VAR: Ricardo de Burgos (Italy)


Referee Donatas Rumsas


Thursday night’s referee is 33-year-old Lithuanian Donatas Rumšas.

Despite his relative youth, Rumšas has extensive experience of officiating European matches, with Thursday's game being his 50th in UEFA competitions.

Rumšas has refereed English clubs twice previously - Wolverhampton Wanderers' UEFA Europa League third qualifying round win over Pyunik in August 2019 and Manchester United's 2-1 group-stage defeat at Astana of Kazakhstan three months later.

He has also refereed England's U17s and U19s, and took charge of Belgium's 8-0 FIFA World Cup qualifying win over Belarus in March this year.

He has never officiated either West Ham or Genk in a competitive fixture.