With the first leg having ended 0-0 in Alkmaar on Thursday, both Groningen and Alkmaar will be looking to give it their all in one final push for European football next season.

  • By Adrian Bucher
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az groOn Sunday, FC Groningen host AZ Alkmaar in the second leg of the Eredivisie Europa League Playoff Final at the Euroborg to decide which team will be the Eredivisie’s final representative in next season’s European club competitions. With the first leg having ended goalless at the AFAS Stadion, the tie is delicately poised for a showdown between these two sides.

AZ had enjoyed the lion’s share of possesion in the first leg, seeing 63% of the ball, but ultimately failed to break down a well-disciplined Groningen defense, limiting most of AZ’s chances to shots from outside the penalty area. As a result Groningen have every reason to feel confident about their chances when the referee blows his whistle at kick-off. Despite enjoying far less possession, Groningen were able to register the same amount of shots on target as AZ, which is indicative of their more efficient use of the ball, and the ability of their defense, led by Eric Botteghin (who is coming off a fine season), to absorb much of AZ Alkmaar’s pressure.

Recent matches have also shown that Groningen are proven goalscorers, and should be considered as slight favourites going into this tie. Not only are Groningen currently on a four-match winning streak at the Euroborg, the Alkmaar side have failed to register an away win in the Eredivisie since a 2-0 victory at Arnhem against Vitesse back in February.

However, AZ will be boosted by the return of Aron J√≥hannsson who made a return to injury as a second half substitute against Groningen on Thursday, and had a glorious chance to open the scoring had it not been for some fine goalkeeping by Marco Bizot. Up until J√≥hannsson’s introduction, AZ had looked ineffective upfront, despite seeing twice as much of the ball as their opponents, with Steven Berghuis often left isolated up front. The responsibility of finding the away goal firmly rests on the Icelandic-American’s shoulders, and if AZ are to find the net, Groningen may find themselves chasing the match – considering that they failed to secure any away goals for themselves.

Sunday’s playoff final also marks the end of Dick Advocaat’s brief tenure in Alkmaar, making way for Marco van Basten to take the reigns once preseason arrives.

Regardless of which team eventually wins the playoff final, what is certain is that it has been yet another exciting season in the Eredivisie, whose excitement has been carried out down to this final match of the season.

Adrian Bucher (39 Posts)