The last 32 of the Europa League begins on Thursday with AZ Alkmaar hosting French giants Lyon at the AFAS Stadion.

John van den Brom’s side had a horrible start in the Europa League and were sitting at bottom of their group at the halfway stages, but two wins and a draw in their next three games saw them edge into the last 32 and book a date with Lyon. The French side are in the competition after finishing third in their Champions League group which featured Juventus, Dinamo Zagreb and Sevilla.

Both sides have had up and down league campaigns this season with AZ currently fourth in the Eredivisie after ending a two-game losing streak at the weekend against Heerenveen. Lyon also sit fourth in Ligue 1, but head into the tie in the Netherlands having lost four of their last five games in all competitions. The French side are determined to progress in the Europa League with their league and domestic cup chances already over for the season.

Despite Lyon starting the tie as heavy favourites, van den Brom fancies AZ’s chances, “We see opportunities, especially if we can bring the same level as last Sunday against Heerenveen. When we won in a European way.

Its the first ever meeting between in the two clubs but AZ Alkmaar have never lost a match against a French side in three previous ties.

Team News

Ron Vlaar will turn 32 on Thursday but the defender isn’t expected to feature as he recovers from injury while Mattias Johansson is suspended. Van den Brom is expected to call on Derrick Luckassen to replace Johansson, while Stijn Wuytens will come back into the side after missing the win over Heerenveen.

Possible AZ line-up: Krul, Haps, Luckassen, Van Eijden, Wuytens, Rienstra, Seuntjens, Bel Hassani, Jahanbakhsh, Tankovic, Weghorst

Memphis Depay may have joined the French side but he is unable to feature in the Europa League, having already represented Manchester United in the competition. Mathieu Valbuena and Brazilian defender Rafael are injured, but Corentin Tolisso will return to the team having missed the loss to Guingamp through a suspension.

Possible Lyon line-up: Lopes, Jallet, Morel, Yanga-Mbiwa, Diakhaby, Gonalons, Tolisso, Cornet, Fekir, Ghezzal, Lacazette

Key Players

Alireza Jahanbakhsh

The Iranian winger has been key to AZ Alkmaar’s form this season with six goals and six assists in the league. AZ are yet to see the best from Jahanbakhsh in Europe though and they will be hoping that changes against Lyon. The 23-year-old is a direct and tricky winger who possesses a dangerous strike from distance.

Alexandre Lacazette

In Lacazette, Lyon have one of the most deadly strikers in Europe with the French international already scoring twenty times this season. The 25-year-old’s movement will be hard to handle for the AZ defence while he can score from anywhere around the penalty area. If AZ are to get a positive result then they need to keep Lacazette quiet.

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