FC Groningen and AZ Alkmaar gear up to take on one another in the first leg of the Eredivisie’s Europa League Playoff Final on Thursday.

  • By Adrian Bucher
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 az v gronAs the domestic leagues across Europe begin to wind down, many clubs will be engaged in title races, relegation battles and fighting for European spots for next season. The Netherlands is no exception to this as AZ Alkmaar and FC Groningen will play the first leg of the Europa League playoff final on Thursday to determine which of them will join FC Twente, PEC Zwolle and PSV Eindhoven in next year’s edition of Europe’s second-tier club competition.

Going into the tie, both teams had to overcome sides that were arguably more favoured to advance to the final, with Dick Advocaat’s men disposing of Heerenveen (3-1 on aggregate), and Groningen comfortably beating Vitesse (5-1 on aggregate) during the weekend.

AZ will be particularly keen to build on their quarter final appearance earlier this season in the Europa League, where they succumbed to last season’s runners-up and this season’s finalists, Benfica. Groningen, on the other hand, will want to get back into European football following a seven year absence. Though Erwin van de Looi’s side are currently enjoying a rich vein of form that see them on an eight match winning streak, AZ will be encouraged by the fact that they emerged victorious the last time these two sides met at the AFAS Stadion back in February. AZ’s form, however, has since taken a turn for the worse with the Alkmaar side only managing a single victory in their last 10 fixtures.

In terms of the lineups, both sides have a number of injury worries, with no less than 11 players combined on the treatment table for the two teams – including AZ’s top scorer Aron Jóhannsson, whose been out of action following a knee injury suffered at the beginning of the month. This series of matches will also be Richairo Zivkovic’s last for Groningen before he departs for Ajax during the summer transfer window.

We can expect a hotly contested match to take part in Alkmaar this midweek before the return leg at Euroborg arrives on Sunday to determine who will be rubbing shoulders with some of Europe’s finest next season.

Adrian Bucher (39 Posts)