Our prediction for this Europa League match:
AZ Alkmaar and Astana, the two teams, who are eyeing their first win of the 2019/2020 Europa League campaign, face each other at Cars Jeans Stadion on Thursday evening. The Dutch outfit shared the spoils with the likes of Partizan and Manchester United in the first two group games, but they are definitely capable of beating Astana in Den Haag.
AZ Alkmaar have been producing fine performances in the Dutch Eredivisie in the first half of the season and seeing that Astana experienced all sorts of problems at the back in a 2-1 loss to Partizan, home win should be considered. The rock-bottom side need to pick up all three points from Thursday’s football match if they are to keep their hopes of booking their place in the Europa League knockout stages alive and they are likely to adopt an attack-minded approach against AZ. Therefore, we believe that the hosts will have a number of opportunities to score on the break.
Highlighted Player (Ron Vlaar):
Ron Vlaar is a professional football player who began his senior career at AZ Alkmaar. The right-footed defender made 10 appearances for the club between 2004 and 2006 and then he joined fellow Eredivisie club Feyenoord.
Vlaar made his Feyenoord debut on 15 January, 2006 against Vitesse and he was playing for de Trots van Zuid until July, 2012. The Dutch defender moved to England on 27 July, signing a three-year deal with Aston Villa. He made 27 league appearances for the Villans in the 2012/2013 Premier League campaign and he was named captain on 15 September, 2012. Ron Vlaar participated in the 2014/2015 FA Cup final, but Aston Villa were beaten by Arsenal in the title game.
In 2015 he returns to AZ Alkmaar and he has been playing for the Dutch team ever since. Speaking of his international career, Vlaar won the UEFA U21 Championship with Netherlands on two occasions (2006, 2007). In 2014 he won the bronze medal with the Oranje at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Highlighted Team (Astana):
Astana are a Kazakh football club which was founded in 2009. The Blue and Yellows won their first domestic trophy in 2014, with the team finishing the regular part of the season in third place in the standings. However, thanks to their brilliant displays in the Championship round Astana won the national championship.
The big-spending Kazakh club have always been attracting high-profile footballers from Russia and Ukraine and it has to be noted that the likes of Yegor Titov, Andrey Tikhonov and Maksim Shatshikh played for the Blue and Yellows in the past. Nowadays Astana are considered the best football club in Kazakhstan and you should bear in mind that they won their third consecutive league title in 2016.
However, participating in the 2015/2016 Champions League group stages is considered the club’s biggest success. Astana faced the likes of Benfica, Atletico Madrid and Galatasaray in Group C and they collected 4 points from possible 18 in the process. It has to be noted that they shared the spoils with Diego Simeone’s men at their Astana Arena.