Just about qualifying for the Round of 32 on goal difference, AZ Alkmaar will play hosts to Belgian giants Anderlecht on Thursday Bet365 make Gertjan Verbeek’s side odds against, as both sides look to earn an advantage before going into their second legs later this month.
Anderlecht can boast of scoring the highest amounts of points in this season’s group stage, bagging an impressive 18 points in a pool where they came away with six wins and scored the most goals in qualification.
Les Mauve et Blanc are currently heading the Jupiler League with a seven-point gap over closest opposition Club Brugge but will be keen to bring their form into European competition as they hope to bring an away goal advantage back to the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.
Anderlecht can also brag ownership of this season’s top scorer in the Europa League so far and with seven goals already, Matias Suarez will be trying to add to his tally this week when he travels to Holland.
Despite reports emerging that Suarez has signed a pre-contract agreement with Arsenal in preparation for a summer switch, winning the European competition would be the ideal way to sign off his account with Anderlecht and his focus will undoubtedly lie with the Belgains for the minute.
Alkmaar go into this encounter with far less impressive form than their Belgian opponents but with only two victories in their last six league fixtures, Gertjan Verbeek will want to turn around team morale with a home win on Thursday.
His Alkmaar side also qualified for the knock out stages with only one win, but five draws were enough to see them through and they still lie level on points at the top of Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven.
Anderlecht, or The Cheese Farmers, as they are known, are currently seven points clear at the top of their domestic league, and although they will have full intentions on winning the Jupiler League, this week’s Europa League action will provide a chance to excel on other fronts.