Nicolas Anelka
Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka challenges KRC Genk's Kevin De Bruyne during their Champions League group E match at Stamford Bridge in London. REUTERS

As the gulf between Europe's haves and have-nots increases, mismatches as comprehensive as this are likely to grow more frequent. Chelsea rotated their first-team, resting the likes of John Terry, Juan Mata and Didier Drogba yet still eased to a 5-0 victory over Genk, comfortably equalling their biggest win the Champions League.

Two goals from a returning Fernando Torres - fresh from serving two matches of a three-game domestic suspension - and one each from Raul Meireles, Branislav Ivanovic and substitute Salomon Kalou gave Chelsea some clear air at the top of Group E and ensured a win in the return fixture on 1 November should guarantee their place in the knockout rounds.

Indeed, the hosts could have run up a far more damaging score line had their dominance not been so complete at half-time. The Belgian champions, crippled by injuries and low in confidence, should reasonably have been expected to put up a greater resistance. Instead, they found themselves 4-0 down at the half-time break. Rarely has a Champions League encounter been so one-sided.

"It is no shame to lose to Chelsea because they have too much quality and play at a different level from where we are," said Genk coach Mario Been. "We were missing a lot of players so we weren't in the best shape."

While Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas will be grateful for the extended run-out afforded his squad, he will hope for fewer encounters like this if his team are to harbour realistic hope of winning this competition.

The Portuguese will have been encouraged by Torres's confident finishing, the Spaniard having ended almost two goalless years in this competition with the hosts' second goal after 11 minutes. Torres may be some way short of the lethal goal scorer he was at Liverpool but he played an important role in Chelsea's biggest European win since the 5-0 defeat of Galatasary in Turkey 12 years ago.

"Fernando found scoring positions, but we like to promote collective performance as well as individual performance," Villas-Boas told reporters.

"We are able to choose from the best. The choice fell to Fernando today and he performed very well."

The Spaniard was the chief beneficiary of Villas-Boas' juggled Chelsea line-up and his opponents' defensive brittleness. Playing ahead of Daniel Sturridge in a two-pronged partnership with Nicolas Anelka, Torres almost grabbed the opener in the seventh minute but contrived to hit a post when scoring appeared the easier option.

Torres' early profligacy proved of little damage as Raul Meireles scored Chelsea's first a minute later, his long-range shot perfectly arrowed beyond goalkeeper Laszlo Koteles. They doubled their lead when Torres coolly finished a Frank Lampard pass three minutes later, and the Spaniard netted his second with a perfect glancing header after 27 minutes to put Chelsea firmly in control.

A rare Ivanovic goal three minutes before the break from a Florent Malouda free kick made it 4-0 before substitute Kalou notched a fifth midway through the second half to seal a comprehensive win for the hosts.

"At the moment we are on course to meet our objectives," said Villas-Boas.

"The more important time will be the last three months of the season when you collide, or not, with trophies."