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AZ urged to judge Valencia on their own merits

Published: Wednesday 28 March 2012, 21.56CET
The statistics are stacked in AZ Alkmaar's favour as they prepare to play host to Valencia CF on Thursday, but coach Gertjan Verbeek is under no illusions about the severity of the test.
by Claire Gray
from Alkmaar
AZ urged to judge Valencia on their own merits
Gertjan Verbeek, in the orange bib, talks to his players in training on Wednesday ©AFP/Getty Images

Tournament statistics

AZValencia

Goals scored17
 
14
Attempts on target68
 
34
Attempts off target62
 
40
Corners73
 
54
Offsides23
 
13
Fouls committed168
 
93
Yellow cards23
 
21
Red cards2
 
1

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Published: Wednesday 28 March 2012, 21.56CET

AZ urged to judge Valencia on their own merits

The statistics are stacked in AZ Alkmaar's favour as they prepare to play host to Valencia CF on Thursday, but coach Gertjan Verbeek is under no illusions about the severity of the test.

If statistics are king, Valencia CF's record of one win in five games on their European travels this season offers AZ Alkmaar real optimism that they can crown their impressive campaign with progress to the semi-finals.

The odds are further stacked in favour of Gertjan Verbeek's team given that they are eight games unbeaten at home in the UEFA Europa League. But despite the favourable figures and an impressive triumph against Udinese Calcio in the last round, the AZ coach is under no illusions about the severity of the test his side faces in this quarter-final.

"The Spanish league is one of the strongest in Europe and Valencia are in third position, so they must be good," said Verbeek. "Udinese were a typical Italian team and Valencia are more open, especially on the counterattack. That gives us possibilities. Valencia's way of playing suits us more than Udinese's. They try to imitate Barcelona; short combinations, quick and with an attacking bent."

Unai Emery's men have already shown their class in disposing of one Eredivisie side this year, seeing off PSV Eindhoven 5-3 on aggregate in the round of 16. Now they have designs on sending the Netherlands' league leaders the same way. "PSV were top in the Dutch league at that time, but that has all changed," said Emery. "In that sense it is a similar situation but I get the impression AZ are a bit more stable and more solidly organised."

It is a suspicion Verbeek is keen to endorse. "Yes, we are much better [than PSV], we have showed that over the course of the season," said the 49-year-old, whose side maintained their one-point lead atop the Eredivisie with Sunday's 1-0 win against RKC Waalwijk. "But it is difficult to compare the two teams. PSV have had to perform with a lot of pressure and we do not have that kind of pressure at AZ."

Verbeek's hopes have been dampened by the absence of Nick Viergever through suspension, while Roy Beerens, Celso Ortiz and Etienne Reijnen are all injured. Emery has his own problems after Valencia slipped to their second successive defeat on Saturday, going down 3-1 at Getafe CF, but he is looking forward to recommencing the pursuit of a European dream. "AZ have the same aspirations of the Europa League as we do, to do something beautiful." Victory in Alkmaar would certainly look nice.

Last updated: 28/03/12 22.14CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuropaleague/season=2012/matches/round=2000275/match=2007468/prematch/preview/index.html#az+hoping+home+help

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