AZ Alkmaar will travel to Russia on Thursday looking to book their place in the Europa League quarter finals against Anzhi.

  • By Michael Bell
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berghuis adLast week the Dutch club battled to a 1-0 victory at the AFAS Stadion, and thanks to Aron Johannsson’s goal they will be confident of reaching the last eight of the competition.

However Anzhi were the better side in Holland, and it was only for a number of great saves by goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado that they failed to score an away goal.

Anzhi will also go into the game on the back of a well earned 2-2 draw away to Spartak Moscow on Monday, and despite being bottom of the league, the former cash rich club are showing signs of improvement. On the other hand, AZ were on the losing side at the weekend after conceding  93rd minute goal to lose 2-1 against FC Twente.

AZ manager Dick Advocaat returns to Russia for the first time since leaving his position as their national team coach in 2012, but he will be forced to watch the game from the stands as he serves a one-game-ban.

Speaking before the game, Advocaat said, “The five years that I have worked in Russia as a trainer are a highlight in my career. Anzhi are a physically strong team and we must arm ourselves against that.

“Anzhi are bottom in Russia, but that says more about the strength of the competition. People in Holland are often dismissive about the level of football in Russia, but that is wrong.

“Anzhi made a strong impression on us and they were very clever on Monday evening at Spartak Moscow (a 2-2 draw) because they are a title contender.”

AZ Defender Jeffrey Gouweleeuw will miss the game through suspension.

Possible line ups:

Anzhi: Kerzakhov, Eshchenko, Gadzhibekov, Epureanu, Grigilava, Mkrtchyan, Smolov, Maksimov, Bystrov, Bilyaletdinov, Bukharov

AZ: Alvarado, Johansson, Poulsen, Wuytens, Viergever, Elm, Gudelj, Ortiz, Berghuis, Beerens, Johannsson

AZ Alkmaar are nine games unbeaten in the Europa League, and if they stretch that run to ten then they will book their place in the last eight for the second time in three years. However AZ will have to defend well, and show more attacking intent than they did at home last week in the first leg.

An early away goal will put the tie almost to bed, and hopefully Netherlands last remaining club in the competition will be celebrating a place in tomorrow’s draw come 7pm tonight.

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