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AZ Alkmaar's fine run in the UEFA Europa League will meet its toughest test yet against their round of 32 opponents RSC Anderlecht, who proved among the star performers of the group stage and boast the tournament's top scorer.
• The sides have been paired for the first time in UEFA competition.
• AZ's record against Belgian sides is W1 D2 L1 (W1 D1 L0 at home).
• Anderlecht's 12 games against Dutch opponents have ended W8 D2 L2 (W4 D1 L1 in the Netherlands).
• Anderlecht lost to another Dutch side, AFC Ajax, at this stage of last season's competition, falling 3-0 at home and 2-0 in Amsterdam.
• AZ are on a seven-match unbeaten run in Europe – two victories followed by five draws. At home they have gone six games without defeat – four wins and two draws – since a 2-1 loss against FC Dynamo Kyiv in last season's group stage.
• The Dutch outfit are playing European football after the winter break 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.
• Anderlecht are in the round of 32 for the fourth time in five seasons; they made it to the last 16 in 2007/08 and 2009/10 but were beaten by Ajax last season.
• Ariël Jacobs' men are unbeaten in eight European outings this term – seven wins and a draw. They have won all four of their away fixtures, scoring twice in each of them.
• Anderlecht's Matías Suárez is the competition's leading scorer with seven goals, one more than FC Lokomotiv Moskva's Dmitri Sychev. Another Anderlecht player, Guillaume Gillet, is third in the standings with five, level with Andrew Johnson of eliminated Fulham FC.
• Former Anderlecht trainee Maarten Martens played just one league game for the club in 2003/04 before heading to RKC Waalwijk and, in 2006, AZ.
• Anderlecht's Dieudonné Mbokani and Milan Jovanović took on AZ in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League group stage with R. Standard de Liège; Standard edged out AZ to finish third in the section, both of their direct encounters ending 1-1.
• Anderlecht defender Olivier Deschacht turns 31 on the day of the match; he has yet to play in a UEFA game on his birthday.
• Anderlecht were the top scorers in the UEFA Europa League group stage with 18 goals – nine in each half. They were the only side to earn a maximum haul of 18 points.
• Anderlecht's 5-3 win against FC Lokomotiv Moskva was the highest-scoring game of the group stage.
• AZ hit seven of their ten group stage goals between the 16th and 45th minutes.
• 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.
• Jacobs has been Anderlecht coach since November 2007. Formerly a striker, he spent most of his playing career with K. Diegem Sport, later coaching Belgium youth teams and acting as assistant to national team coach Guy Thys. He returned to club football to lead RWD Molenbeek, RAA Louviéroise, KSC Lokeren OV and R. Excelsior Mouscron.
Round of 16
• The winners will take on Udinese Calcio or PAOK FC in the round of 16 on 8 and 15 March, playing the first leg at home.
• AZ have never come across Udinese but took on PAOK in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup first round, winning 3-2 in Salonika and 2-1 at home.
• Anderlecht have met neither of their potential opponents in UEFA competition.
• An updated version of the UEFA Europa League Statistics Handbook is available here:
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