AZ Alkmaar will be anything but cagey in their round of 16 opener against Udinese Calcio according to coach Gertjan Verbeek.
The Eredivisie leaders may boast only the fifth most potent attack in the Dutch top flight, but Verbeek emphasised that his team will be looking to hit Udinese hard whether the visitors adopt a similar approach or try to keep things tight at the back.
"We'll have to wait and see if they play defensively," he said. "It's clear that there's a different football philosophy in Italy, a different way of thinking. Nothing is good or bad.
Keeping a clean sheet isn't sacred for us because we play to score ourselves rather than prevent others scoring against us."
That thinking took AZ past RSC Anderlecht with 1-0 home-and-away wins in the round of 32, and the Kaaskoppen (Cheeseheads) are unbeaten in their last nine European outings. They have also won five and drawn two of their previous seven at home, yet despite the statistics, Verbeek sees Udinese as clear favourites in the tie.
"After two-thirds of the season, Udinese are near the top of Serie A," said the 49-year-old, who will be hoping for good news from injury doubt Maarten Martens. "They're eight points behind the leaders, AC Milan, and I believe they've got 45 players under contract. When you look at that, you can't compare AZ and Udinese with each other. Considering their budget, they're favourites."
Facing a number of selection concerns, the Italian side's coach Francesco Guidolin certainly does not feel himself in a privileged position. With UEFA Europa League regular Diego Fabbrini suspended, Guidolin will choose between Antonio Di Natale and Antonio Floro Flores in attack, and he is reluctant to demand too much of the former.
"We don't have a huge squad, so it's been difficult playing this many matches," he said. "That's one of the reasons why Di Natale hasn't been used much in European football. He's 34 and he can't play all the time."
Udinese could also be deprived of Dušan Basta and Kwadwo Asamoah due to thigh problems as they tackle a side that has impressed Guidolin. "I watched AZ last week and they're a very fast-paced team. The fact they're top of the Eredivisie means they're one of the strongest sides in the Netherlands. They represent the Netherlands well and they'll be tough opponents."
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