The longest journey in the history of UEFA group stage competitions will take AZ Alkmaar to Astana on matchday three to take on UEFA Europa League Group L rivals FC Shakhter Karagandy.
• The sides are meeting for the first time and it is Shakhter's first meeting with Dutch opponents.
• AZ met Shakhter's Kazakh league rivals FC Aktobe in the 2010/11 UEFA Cup play-offs, winning 2-0 at home and progressing despite a 2-1 defeat in Kazakhstan.
• The journey from Alkmaar to Aktobe is around 3,600km. To get to the forthcoming game in Astana they will have to travel over 4,400km – further than any team has ever travelled for a UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League group stage game. However, an even longer journey awaits Shakhter ahead of the return fixture on matchday four – Karaganda is just shy of 4,600km from Alkmaar.
• Shakhter picked up their first Group L point on matchday two with a 2-2 draw against Maccabi Haifa FC. They are unbeaten in their last seven European home games (W5 D2).
• Shakhter came within 90 minutes of reaching the UEFA Champions League group stage only to let slip a 2-0 first-leg advantage in the play-offs at Celtic FC. They nonetheless received the substantial consolation prize of a first UEFA Europa League group stage campaign.
• AZ are appearing in this group stage for the seventh time; losing UEFA Cup finalists in 1980/81, they made it through to the semi-finals after coming through the inaugural UEFA Cup group stage in 2004/05. In total, they have qualified for the knockout phase four times.
• AZ have won their last two European away games, and have four Group L points following a 1-1 draw at PAOK FC on matchday two.
• Shakhter are the first Kazakh side to have reached a UEFA club competition group stage, and the most easterly club to have reached this stage.
• The distance between Shakhter's home town and that of the most westerly group stage contenders, Estoril Praia, is 6,358km – around one sixth the circumference of earth.
• Shakhtar are one of nine domestic champions appearing in this season's group stage while AZ are one of the 11 domestic cup holders in the competition.
• New AZ boss Dick Advocaat is one of four coaches in the group stage to have had their hands on the trophy before. PAOK FC's Huub Stevens, who won it as a player (PSV Eindhoven, 1978) and a coach (FC Schalke 04, 1997), FC Dnipro Dniropetrovsk's coach Juande Ramos (Sevilla FC, 2006 & 2007) and Tottenham Hotspur FC manager André Villas-Boas (FC Porto, 2011) are the others.
• A Kazakh title winner in his first two seasons with Shakhter, 2011 and 2012, Russian-born Viktor Kumykov had his career as a goalkeeper cut short by injury when he was 24. He turned to coaching and led home-town club PFC Spartak Nalchik in Russia before embarking on a series of roles in Kazakhstan and then Uzbekistan. Visiting museums is one of his favourite pastimes.
• AZ dismissed coach Gertjan Verbeek ahead of matchday two. He had been in charge since 2010, and led the club to Dutch Cup success last season.
• Dick Advocaat was named as AZ's new coach on 16 October, returning to the club where he had spent five months in charge at the end of the 2009/10 season. Twice Netherlands coach, the 66-year-old won the 2007/08 UEFA Cup with FC Zenit, as well as national titles with PSV Einhdhoven (1997/98), Rangers FC (1998/99, 1999/2000) and Zenit (2007).
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