The group stage of the Europa League begins on Thursday with AZ Alkmaar hosting Irish side Dundalk at the AFAS Stadion.

az ginaAZ begin their sixth straight Europa League campaign this week looking to improve on their performance from last season where they finished bottom of a group that featured Athletic Bilbao, Partizan Belgrade and Augsburg. Russian’s Zenit st Petersburg, Irish side Dundalk and Maccabi tel Aviv of Israel are this years opponents for the Alkmaar side, and they will feel confident of finishing in the top two.

Vincent Janssen and Markus Henriksen may have left in the summer but the club have recruited well and John van den Brom’s side have began to click in the league, winning their last three games, and currently sit fourth. They are unbeaten in their four European ties this season, having already seen off PAS Giannina and Vojvodina in qualifying for the group stage.

Opponents Dundalk almost made it into the Champions League group stages, having knocked out BATE Borisov in the third qualifying round but they went down 3-1 on aggregate to Polish side Legia Warsaw. The champions of Ireland, currently sit top of their league, with a ten point gap to 2nd and have won their last six games on the trot.

Team news

Jop van der Linden is the only injury concern for John van den Brom who has a few choices to make ahead of the tie. Should Dabney dos Santos or Levi Garcia begin on the left wing and will the height of Wout Weghorst be preferred to the pace of Fred Friday up front.

Possible AZ line-up: Rochet, Johansson, Haps, Vlaar, van Eijden, Luckassen, Rienstra, Wuytens, Jahanbakhsh, Dos Santos, Friday

Possible Dundalk line-up: Rogers, Gannon, Massey, Boyle, Barrett, Benson, Finn, Mountney, Horgan, McEleney, McMillan

Players to watch

Alireza Jahanbakhsh

The Iranian winger has been unstoppable at times on the right wing for AZ and has three goals and two assists so far this season, including a stunner against NEC at the weekend. Jahanbakhsh has recovered from a slight knock to be part of the game on Thursday and will be AZ’s main attacking threat.

David McMillan

The striker is currently the top scorer in the league for Dundalk with 14 goals in 23 appearances, including two hat-tricks. McMillan also made a big impression in the Champions League qualifiers, netting ¬†five times. Dundalk are likely to play on the counter-attack on Thursday and AZ’s defence will have to pay attention to McMillan.

Odds

AZ: 2/7 Draw: 9/2 Dundalk: 10/1




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