AZ host Groningen in the first leg of their Eredivisie play-offs, with the two sides battling it out for a place in the UEFA Europa League.
After finishing as the lowest ranked teams inside the top eight, both sides came through their respective semi-final clashes with relative ease.
AZ, who finished eighth at the end of the regular season, thumped fifth-placed Heerenveen 3-0 at home and, despite losing the away leg 1-0, comfortably progressed to the final play-off stage.
Groningen were even more emphatic, taking a 1-0 advantage into their second leg at Vitesse before promptly dispatching Peter Bosz’s men 4-1 to seal a 5-1 aggregate success.
For AZ, their semi-final victory was a far cry from their end of season form, which saw them fail to win any of their five games prior to the play-offs.
Groningen, on the other hand, have now won eight consecutive matches and will come into Thursday’s first leg full of confidence.
AZ defender Jeffrey Gouweleeuw, while wary of the opposition’s threat, called on his team-mates to reproduce the performance seen in the first leg against Heerenveen.
“Their team is currently impressing with a series of victories,” he told the club’s official website.
“But we need a good result for the away match, the same scenario as against Heerenveen. Hopefully, the fans will be behind us.”
AZ’s top scorer Aron Johannsson, with 17 league goals so far this campaign, has not played since April 27 with an ankle injury and remains a doubt.
In the promotion/relegation play-offs, Sparta Rotterdam will continue their bid to defy the odds and gain promotion back to the top flight, which they last dropped out of in 2010.
Gert Kruys’ men finished down in 16th at the end of the Eerste Divisie season, but qualified for the play-offs courtesy of being the best team in the second period of the season.
Sparta dispatched top-flight NEC in the last round of action, confirming their opponents’ relegation, and will now host Dordrecht – who finished second – in Thursday’s first leg.
The winners over two legs will take on either top-flight Waalwijk or Excelsior, with the second tier outfit playing hosts on Thursday.
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