AZ Alkmaar vs Zenit Saint Petersburg – Thursday 18:00 GMT/19:00 CET AFAS Stadion – Alkmaar.
With Spartak losing 4-0 on Wednesday, Zenit could have perhaps gone even on points on top of the Russian Football Premier League, but a 0-0 draw against FC Rostov means that Zenit will go into the three month long winter break sitting second in the table regardless of Spartak’s result on Monday against Rubin Kazan.
Having already qualified, Zenit will now undergo a long-term planning process, as their next fixture will be the round of 32 match in the UEFA Europa League in February. It will, therefore, be interesting to see how Zenit head coach Mircea Lucescu will approach the game in the Netherlands.
With a victory, Zenit could make history, as only seven teams have managed to win all six of their group stage matches in the history of the Europa League. On the other hand, the game against AZ could provide a golden opportunity to give playing time to some prospects from Zenit-2, who play in Russia’s second division of the Football National League.
AZ, meanwhile, will have one point more than both Dundalk and Maccabi Tel-Aviv, and the Dutch side will be through if they win, if they draw, and the other game is also a draw, or if they lose, and the other game ends in a 0-0 draw.
There are a lot of ifs for the Dutch side going into matchday 6, and it is likely that Alkmaar will have to play for three points. Whether their endeavour will be aided by playing a weakened Zenit side remains to be seen, however. Those who have encountered Lucescu know that the Romanian coach is extremely driven, and that he is not likely to pass up the opportunity to secure himself a Europa League record.
AZ Alkmaar vs Zenit – Players to look out for:
Giuliano has scored five goals in five Europa League matches this season, and has also recorded four assists in the process—more than any other player in the Europa League this season. Giuliano was brought in to replace Brazilian forward Hulk, who was sold to China last summer, and Lucescu has done well to convert the winger to a central attacking midfielder. Another player to look out for is Aleksandr Kokorin, who finally seems to be fulfilling his potential under Lucescu, as the Russian forward, turned winger, has scored four goals in the Europa League this season.
AZ Alkmaar vs Zenit – Match Stats
- Zenit are one of three teams, the other two are Schalke and Shakhtar, who have won all group stage matches this season.
- Only seven clubs have managed to win all six group stage matches of the Europa League.
- Zenit destroyed AZ 5-0 on matchday 2 of the UEFA Europa League.
- Zenit and AZ drew 1-1 in 2007-08 of the UEFA Cup group stage, in what has been the only other meeting between the two clubs.
- AZ’s record against Russian opponents is W2 D2 L4.
- Zenit’s record against Dutch sides is W4 D1 L1.
- AZ have not won a game at home in the Europa League in four matches.
Futbolgrad’s Prediction: AZ Alkmaar vs Zenit 1-3
AZ Alkmaar vs Zenit – Possible Lineups
Rochet – Haps, Wuytens, Vlaar, Johansson – Seuntjens, Mührens, Rienstra – Tanković, Weghorst, Bel Hassani
Manager: John van den Brom
Lodygin – Zhirkov, Criscito, Novoselstev, Anyukov – Maurício, Witsel – Mak, Giuliano, Kokorin – Djordjević
Manager: Mircea Lucescu