AZ Alkmaar travels to Ukraine on Thursday to face Mariupol in the first-leg of their Europa League third qualifying round clash. Kick-off is at 6pm BST.

It has been a promising week for new AZ Alkmaar boss Arnie Slot, who watched his side defeat BK Hacken 3-0 in Sweden last week to book their place in the third qualifying round. They then started their league campaign with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Fortuna Sittard.

AZ will now be looking to take a big step towards the playoff’s for a Europa League group stage when they travel to Ukraine on Thursday for their first-leg clash with Mariupol.

The Ukrainian side finished fourth in the league last season to reach the Europa League. Mariupol are currently two games into their league campaign and sit eighth after one draw and a loss.

Slot is expecting a tough game in Ukraine, “Mariupol is a tough opponent and we know their strength. They have a strong striker, which they can play in the air as well as in the depth. They often do that. In pre-season we practised against FC Oleksandria and Mariupol met them last weekend. They have a similar playing style, so we know what to expect. Both clubs love to counter and can do that well. “

The winner between AZ and Mariupol goes on to face either Antwerp of Belgium or Czech side Viktoria Plzen.

Team News

Guus Til has now departed officially for Spartak Moscow while Ferdy Druijf is missing from the squad heading to Ukraine. Jonas Svensson is training but may start on the bench

It is likely that Slot could select the same eleven that defeated Fortuna Sittard at the weekend.

Possible AZ line-up: Bizot, Sugawara, Wijndal, Vlaar, Wuytens, Koopmeiners, Ouwejan, Midtso, Idrissi, Stengs, Boadu

Mariupol’s squad is a mix of experienced Ukrainian players and a number of loanee’s from Shakhtar Donetsk. Up front, Ruslan Fomin has started the season in good form with two goals in two games.

Possible Mariupol line-up: Khudzhamov, Kyryukhantsev, Bykov, Yavorskiy, Chobotenko, Fedorchuk, Chekh, Myshnov, Vakula, Churko, Fomin

Odds

Mariupol 10/3 Draw 13/5 AZ Alkmaar 8/11

What to expect from the first-leg

Mariupol will be an unknown quantity for most but they had an excellent league campaign last year and will be looking to make an impression in Europe.

However, if they try to attack AZ Alkmaar then that will play into the Dutch sides hands. They will look to use the counter attack efficiently and get Boadu, Stengs and Idrissi on the ball as much as possible going forward.

Boadu has had an excellent start to the season so far and Slot will be hoping he can fire them to a first-leg win which will put them within touching distance of the playoffs.




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