AZ Alkmaar host Spanish giants Athletic Bilbao on Thursday as they look to get their Europa League campaign back on track.

az hernikTwo weeks ago AZ started the group phase with a disappointing 3-2 defeat to Partizan Belgrade in Serbia, and if they hope to qualify for the knockout rounds then they will need to get a positive result when they host Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.

John van den Brom’s side warmed up for the tie with their best performance of the season so far as they saw off Heracles Almelo 3-1 at the weekend.

Opponents Athletic Bilbao may have won their opening group game 3-1 against Augsburg two weeks ago, but they have started the La Liga season terribly and currently sit 17th after six games. The weekend 0-0 draw against Real Socieded was their first away point of the season so far, and AZ will be confident of picking up a result if they can continue their performance from the weekend.

Team News

After his red card two weeks ago Guus Hupperts misses the tie, while goalkeeper Sergio Rochet, winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and attacker Fernando Lewis are struggling with injuries.

Possible AZ line-up: Coutinho, Johansson, Brezancic, Van der Linden, Gouweleeuw, Henriksen, Dos Santos, Rienstra, Overeem, Tankovic, Janssen

Athletic Bilbao will be without the injured Iker Muniain and Eneko Boveda.

Possible Athletic line-up: Iraizoz, De Marcos, Balenziaga, Etxeita, Laporte, Benat, San Jose, Susaeta, Sabin, Raul Garcia, Aduriz

Head to Head

AZ Alkmaar have never faced Athletic Bilbao, but they have a good record against Spanish opposition at home in Europe, having never lost in four matches at the AFAS Stadion. Athletic’s only experience with a Dutch side came back in the 1978/79 season when they were defeated 3-2 on aggregate by Ajax in the UEFA Cup.

Key Players

Vincent Janssen

The striker was in prolific form during pre-season, but has yet to find the net in six Eredivisie appearances so far. Janssen is likely to get the nod from Van den Brom to start against Athetic and he will need to impress if AZ are to get a result. Janssen’s only two goals of the season came in the qualifiers for the Europa League.

Aritz Aduriz

One of the most prolific strikers in La Liga over the past few years, Aduriz has started the season in fine form with nine goals in 12 appearances, including two against Augsburg two weeks ago. The 34-year-old will be Athletic’s biggest threat going forward and given time in the box he will punish AZ’s defence.




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