Aston Villa vs AZ Alkmaar recommended bets
Aston Villa vs AZ Alkmaar match preview
After putting in, by some distance, their most-impressive performance of this group stage so far in the Netherlands, Aston Villa will be targeting a similar result in this rematch.
A fortnight ago, the Villans cruised to victory at AFAS Stadion, with Leon Bailey, Youri Tielemans, Ollie Watkins and John McGinn all on target in the club’s biggest victory outside the UK since 2008.
Ibrahim Sadiq’s late goal was scant consolation for AZ.
Unai Emery’s team began this campaign with a shock 3-2 defeat in Warsaw, but have since enjoyed back-to-back wins, with John McGinn’s 95th minute header downing HŠK Zrinjski Mostar.
This means Villa and Legia Warszawa currently lead the way at the mid-way point of this group, with the two set to meet in the Midlands in three weeks time.
Before then, the Claret and Blue Army will be demanding a reaction, after their team were limply beaten by Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Sunday.
This was, inarguably, Villa’s worst performance since being hammered at St James’ Park on the opening weekend, with their excellent form in-between leaving them fifth in the Premier League.
AZ Alkmaar meantime, having got all the way to the semi-finals of this competition just last season, were supposed to be Villa’s biggest challengers for top spot, but this is not how it’s transpired so far.
The Cheeseheads were involved in a quite extraordinary match in their opener, racing into a 3-0 half time lead in Bosnia, before completely collapsing and ultimately losing 4-3 to debutants Zrinjski.
Pascal Jansen’s side did then defeat Legia 1-0 at home, but three points after three games, two of which have been at home, leaves them bottom of the group, in serious danger of elimination.
Domestically, AZ remain undefeated this season, currently sat second in the Eredivisie, despite being held to a 1-1 draw at Excelsior on Saturday, conceding in stoppage time at Stadion Woudestein.
To date, the Cheeseheads have lost all seven previous visits to England, conceding 22 goals, most-recently ousted by West Ham in the last four of the Europa Conference League in May.
This trend is likely to continue at Villa Park.
Aston Villa team news
In Europe, Unai Emery heavily rotated for the trip to Warsaw but, after his team lost that game, has been deploying stronger XIs subsequently, with these yielding successive wins.
A microcosm of this is the fact that Emi Martínez has started the last two games, after Robin Olsen donned the gloves in Poland.
Four of Ollie Watkins’ nine goals so far this season have come in the Europa Conference League, including a hat-trick in the play-off round against Hibs.
Left-back Álex Moreno was back on the bench at the weekend, hoping for his first run-out of the season following a hamstring injury.
AZ Alkmaar team news
Vangelis Pavlidis will be AZ’s primary goal threat, having scored 36 times since the start of last season, ten of which have come in the Europa Conference League.
Star midfielder Dani de Wit will be deployed in-behind, while Socceroos international Mat Ryan will be in goal.