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Udinese look to overturn AZ deficit

Published: Friday 9 March 2012, 9.00CET
Udinese Calcio are 2-0 down as they host AZ Alkmaar in their UEFA Europa League decider, but a great home record and their visitors shaky away form gives them hope.
Udinese look to overturn AZ deficit
AZ's Maarten Martens chases down Udinese's Damiano Ferronetti ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Friday 9 March 2012, 9.00CET

Udinese look to overturn AZ deficit

Udinese Calcio are 2-0 down as they host AZ Alkmaar in their UEFA Europa League decider, but a great home record and their visitors shaky away form gives them hope.

Having gone nine games without defeat at home in this competition, Udinese Calcio welcome AZ Alkmaar, hoping to make a return to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals after a three-year absence.

• Jozy Altidore set up Maarten Martens (63) and Erik Falkenburg (84) as AZ won the first leg 2-0 in Alkmaar, with Samir Handanovič keeping his side in the tie with two late saves.

Previous meetings
• The teams have been paired for the first time in UEFA club competition.

• AZ have played only one previous tie against an Italian club, losing out to FC Internazionale Milano in the 1982/83 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup second round, winning 1-0 at home but going down 2-0 at San Siro.

• Udinese have now played four games against Dutch clubs, with the record W1 D0 L3 (W1 D0 L0 at home – W0 D0 L3 in the Netherlands). They have yet to score a goal on Dutch soil, and need to improve on their only previous home result against a Dutch side – a 2-1 win against AFC Ajax – if they are to make it to the last eight.

Match background
• AZ are on a ten-match unbeaten run in Europe − five victories and five draws.

• Udinese are unbeaten in nine home games in this competition – six wins and three draws – since a 2-0 loss against Borussia Dortmund in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup first round.

• AZ's 1-0 win at RSC Anderlecht in the round of 32 ended a 15-game wait for a European away win (seven draws, eight defeats) since beating FC Paços de Ferreira 1-0 in the UEFA Cup first round on 20 September 2007.

• The Kaaskoppen (Cheeseheads) are playing European football in the spring for the first time since 2006/07, when they beat Fenerbahçe SK and Newcastle United FC before bowing out to SV Werder Bremen in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals.

• This is Udinese's third tilt at the round of 16; they lost out to PFC Levski Sofia in 2005/06 but overcame FC Zenit St Petersburg to reach the 2008/09 quarter-finals.

Team facts
• Eight of AZ's 14 UEFA Europa League goals have come between the 16th and 45th minutes of the first half.

• Udinese are the lowest scoring side to have reached this stage, having hit just nine goals in nine games since the start of the UEFA Europa League group stage - and average of one per game.

• Udinese's Brazilian defender Neuton turns 22 on the eve of this game.

• AZ midfielder Rasmus Elm turns 24 on Saturday 17 March.

• Udinese defender Joel Ekstrand and AZ midfielder Rasmus Elm played together with Sweden as they hosted the 2009 UEFA Under-21 European Championships.

• Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin spent the bulk of his playing days with Hellas-Verona FC. His coaching career included a stint in France at AS Monaco FC in 2005/06. Since then he has been in charge of US Città di Palermo and Parma FC, taking over for a second spell at Udinese in 2010. He successfully guided Monaco through the 2005/06 UEFA Cup group stage but missed out with Palermo the following season.

• AZ coach Gertjan Verbeek spent most of his playing career as a defender at sc Heerenveen, barring a season on loan at Heracles Almelo in 1986/87. He has twice coached Heracles (2001-04 and 2009-10) either side of stints in charge of Heerenveen (2004-08) and, briefly, Feyenoord in 2008/09. AZ brought him in at the start of 2010/11.

Competition statistics
• An updated version of the UEFA Europa League Statistics Handbook is available here:
http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuropaleague/news/newsid=1750416.html

Last updated: 09/03/12 16.34CET

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