The Dutch city of Alkmaar hosts a meeting between two emblems who followed different routes in the first half of the season in terms of European competitions. While home owners vie for the 16-a-side first leg after having played in the group stage, Lyon are in the second most important European club competition after being knocked out in the Champions League group stage.
Four-placed Eredivisie 2015/16, AZ Alkmaar secured the right to play in the third qualifying round of the Europa League of the current season. Having left behind the Giannina Greeks and the Vojvodina Serbs, the draw put the Dutch team in Group D together with Zenit, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Dundalk. As expected, the Russian team, accustomed to higher flights in the European championships, dominated the group at its pleasure and finished the respective campaign with 15 points, seven more than the AZ Alkmaar formation that qualified with eight points conquered in six Games, ahead of Maccabi Tel Aviv (seven) and Dundalk (four).
Accustomed to being a member of the European Union’s second most important club competition (either in the UEFA Cup format or in the current Europa League), AZ Alkmaar once again ruled the group stage three years later, as in 2013 / 14 reached the “quarters” and was eliminated by Benfica. A “typically Dutch” team with the vicissitudes that come mainly from the European context, AZ Alkmaar will try as much as possible to fight with a team that comes from the Champions League, admitting the status of “underdog”. In the group stage, despite their heroic home win over Zenit in their last matchday, AZ Alkmaar suffered a lot at the hands of the Russian side in the second round after losing five unanswered goals.
Before facing this first duel with Lyon, AZ won an important victory at Heerenveen by two balls to one, a result that allowed them to smile again after two consecutive setbacks against Vitesse (2-1) and PSV Eindhoven (2 -4).
Probable team: Tim Krul, Mattias Johansson, Rens van Eijden, Pantelis Hatzidiakos, Ridgeciano Haps, Ben Rienstra, Iliass Bel Hassani, Mats Seuntjes, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Muamer Tankovic, Wout Weghorst
Europa League Lyon fell in the Europa League after finishing their Champions League participation in third place in Group H, leveling above the top three: Juventus, Sevilla and Lyon. Dynamo Zagreb, “poor relative” of the group, stayed for the modest four place without any points conquered. At the start, the French team had all the conditions to secure a place in the next phase, but the great season that Sevilla plays under the orders of Jorge Sampaoli took away the Gallic team of the competition, since Juve won the group practically without discussion , Confirming the favorite status to finish on pole.
Lyon’s hegemony in France has long been lost, replaced by that of the millionaire PSG, but the “OL” has shown positive signs and the last season is a good example in that sense. This year 2017 did not start in a particularly auspicious way for Lyon, as the team coached by Bruno Genésio lost five of their eight official matches, the last one against Guingamp by two balls to one. The Europa League is not the most attractive scenario for Lyon and the club’s management has even secured important elements to try the best possible in the Champions League, so that the fall in this event ends in a disappointment. Although he has the ability and quality to get far, everything will depend on the willingness with which the team presents itself to dispute this race.
Probable team: Anthony Lopes, Cristophe Jallet, Yanga-Mbiwa, Mouctar Diakhaby, Jérémy Morel, Maxime Gonalons, Lucas Tousart, Nabil Fékir, Rachid Ghezzal, Alexandre Kacazette, Maxwel Cornet
As a rule, a duel involving at least one Dutch team is synonymous with goals. If AZ Alkmaar’s offensive propensity matches Lyon’s potential in the last third, it is legitimate to believe that the game will have a few goals.