What can Dundalk expect from AZ Alkmaar?

We look at their Europa League group stage opponents

BY Raf Diallo 14:20 Thursday 15 September 2016, 14:20 15 Sep 2016

AZs Alireza Jahanbakhsh, right, uses his elbow to push Athletics Carlos Gurpegi as he heads the ball during the Europe League Group L soccer match between AZ Alkmaar and Athletic Bilbao at AFAS stadium in Alkmaar, Netherlands, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Like many of Europe's leagues, Dutch football has played host to a Big Three.

In their case, Ajax Amsterdam, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven have won the bulk of the country's Eredivisie titles and also have each won a European Cup at least once in their history.

But for a short period at the start of this decade, other clubs emerged. Twente was one of them, with Steve McClaren leading them to league glory in 2010.

But before that, it was Dundalk's opening Europa League group stage opponents AZ Alkmaar.

They won the Dutch title in 2009 for just the second time and also ended a 28-year run where every league crown went to one of the Big Three. Incidentally the last team other than the most high-profile trio to enjoy a league win were AZ themselves back in 1981 - and at the time even that was an isolated victory for clubs not called Feyenoord, Ajax or PSV.

But what sort of side are Dundalk facing in Alkmaar on Thursday?

Recent Form

On Saturday, AZ notched a 2-0 home win over 14th place Willem II in the Eredivisie.

That result leaves John van den Brom's side fourth behind the Big Three after five games of the domestic season.

It's been a solid start to the season for them in that sense, with their only defeat coming at the hands of reigning champions PSV Eindhoven and that was only a 1-0 loss away from home.

Key Players

When it comes to recognisable names at the club, former Aston Villa centre-back Ron Vlaar wears the captain's armband and the experienced Dutch international marshals the back-line.

However, last season's Dutch league top scorer Vincent Janssen departed in the summer for Tottenham. He scored 31 goals in all competitions in 2015-16 and in terms of goal-getting this campaign, Iranian right-winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh tops the goal-charts with three to his name.

 AZ's head coach John van den Brom watches his players prior to the Europe League Group L soccer match between AZ Alkmaar and Athletic Bilbao at AFAS stadium in Alkmaar, Netherlands, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Stats and System

A 4-2-3-1 system was used against Willem II with Jahanbakhsh and Dabney dos Santos flanking Nigerian striker Fred Friday (creator of the most chances for the club this season), whose luck in front of goal won't be in on a Thursday (sorry for the obvious pun) and Dutch underage cap Joris van Overeem (22) played in the hole.

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