Zenit have done Dundalk a massive favour by defeating Maccabi
But the Lilywhites must take advantage now when they take on AZ18:24 Thursday 24 November 2016, 18:24 24 Nov 2016
A win for Dundalk against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday night on the fifth matchday of Europa League group action will put the Irish champions on the brink of knockout stage qualification.
And Zenit St Petersburg have increased the chances of that possibility coming to pass.
The Russian giants who narrowly defeated Dundalk 2-1 home and away in the last two matchdays in Group D had already secured top spot and qualified before tonight's action.
Second place, which provides the runner-up qualification spot, is up for grabs.
Starting the night on 12 points, Zenit have now added three more in the early kick off with a 2-0 home win over Maccabi Tel Aviv, who Dundalk have already defeated at home earlier in the group.
Two Aleksandrs did the damage for Zenit with Kokorin and Kherzakov scoring in the victory that lifts the Russians up to 15 points.
The result now has a positive knock-on effect for Dundalk, provided a second group victory is secured tonight by defeating AZ.
As things stand Maccabi, who Dundalk face in the final round of group games, are level on points with Stephen Kenny's side on four points but having played a game more.
Dundalk are ranked second above them due to the head-to-head record when Dundalk defeated the Israeli side 1-0 at Tallaght Stadium.
Easier said than done of course, but if Dundalk were to beat AZ (who are two points behind them and Maccabi and very much still in play) tonight, the League of Ireland champions would move on to seven points, three points clear of third.
The gap to AZ would also be five points, eliminating the Dutch side in the process with a game to spare.
Dundalk wouldn't be home and dry though because it would then come down to the head-to-head result partly garnered from the final match against Maccabi.
As mentioned already Dundalk would have the advantage so far after the aforementioned 1-0 home win and avoiding defeat in Israel coupled with a win tonight would seal second place.
Even a 1-0 loss away to Maccabi would also be enough as goal difference would still work in Dundalk's favour if they beat AZ.
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