AZ Alkmaar get their Europa League campaign underway in the second qualifying round against BK Hacken. The first leg kicks off at the AFAS Stadon at 7.30pm.

After losing at this stage last season, AZ Alkmaar begin their campaign to reach the Europa League group stages on Thursday.

Standing between AZ and the third qualifying round are Swedish side BK Hacken, who finished fifth in their league last season.

It’s been a quiet summer in terms of transfers for AZ Alkmaar. They lost key players Mats Seuntjens and Adam Maher, but have only added Yukinari Sugawara and Jordy Clasie. The biggest change comes on the touchline with Arnie Slot now in charge after John van den Brom departed for Utrecht at the end of the season.

Pre-season has been mostly positive for Slot with victories over Anderlecht (2-0), Club Brugge (5-2) and PAOK Salonika (1-0). Their last friendly against KV Oostende was stopped due to adverse weather with the Belgian side leading 1-0 at half-time.

Opponents BK Hacken have been a regular at this stage in the Europa League in recent years but they have never made it past the third qualifying round.

BK Hacken go into the game much fitter than AZ with their league campaign already halfway through. They currently sit fourth in the table after 16 games and are only six points off Malmo at the top.

Speaking at his press conference, Slot said on the opponents, “They have a very experienced team. They are currently only three points behind the Swedish leader. So a formidable opponent.

“Häcken can play in a very varied way. They can build from behind with a lot of play between the lines. They are also able to find their deep striker with long balls. And Häcken is also dangerous in standard situations. “

Team News

Clasie is not yet fit to start after only joining AZ Alkmaar this week, while Sugawara should also begin the clash on the bench.

AZ wonderkid Myron Boadu has recovered from his serious leg-break which kept him out for most of last season and he should start up front.

Likely AZ line-up: Bizot, Svensson, Ouwejan, Vlaar, Wuytens, Midtso, Koopmeiners, Til, Idrissi, Stengs, Boadu

BK Hacken’s squad has one familiar face for Dutch football fans with former Groningen and Ajax defender Rasmus Lindgren set to start.

The danger men will be Brazilian winger Paulinho and striker Alexander Jeremejeff. The former has netted six times this season, while the latter is the club’s top scorer with seven.

Possible BK Hacken line-up: Abrahamsson, Andersson, Sverrisson, Toivio, Lindgren, Friberg, Falsetas, Mohammed, Irandhust, Paulinho, Jeremejeff

Odds

AZ Alkmaar 8/13 Draw 13/5 BK Hacken 4/1

Prediction

It’s important for the Dutch coefficient that AZ Alkmaar reaches the Europa League group stages but they have been given a tough first test.

BK Hacken are midway through their season and will be a lot fitter than AZ Alkmaar at the moment.

On paper, though, AZ have the stronger squad and they should be able to record a victory in the first-leg. Calvin Stengs, Oussama Idrissi and Myron Boadu is a very exciting attack, with Ferdy Druijf as back up. They should have too much for the Swedish side’s defence.

AZ Alkmaar 3-1 BK Hacken

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