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Martens identifies tonic for AZ ills

AZ Alkmaar have lost three Eredivisie games in a row but Maarten Martens hopes the motivation of the UEFA Champions League will spur them on against his compatriots R. Standard de Liège.

Maarten Martens is keen for AZ to find the form that took them to the Dutch title last season
Maarten Martens is keen for AZ to find the form that took them to the Dutch title last season ©Getty Images

AZ Alkmaar have lost three Eredivisie matches in a row, but Belgian international Maarten Martens hopes the extra motivation of Europe's premier club competition will spur them into life against R. Standard de Liège on Tuesday.

AZ were beaten 1-0 by Olympiacos FC in their group-stage bow a fortnight ago and the meeting with Standard represents another first: their home debut in the UEFA Champions League. "The Champions League is something you want to experience," Martens told, "and the first match was a very beautiful experience. We only failed to score and win, but those matches are played in a great atmosphere. If we could get a good result [against Standard], that could be a kick-start towards another good period."

Belgian reunion
Martens signed a new Alkmaar contract running until 2014 on the eve of Matchday 1 and is one of AZ's four-strong Belgian contingent along with Sebastien Pocognoli, Gill Swerts and Moussa Dembélé. But the international playmaker – whose domestic experience in his homeland consists of one RSC Anderlecht game in 2003/04 – is not giving the Group H fixture with Standard any extra edge. "The match might have a little extra, but it's one out of six matches in the Champions League," the 25-year-old said. "And playing in the Champions League is in itself something special. For us it is a little extra special, this match, but not one that really raises itself high above the other matches."

Must-win encounter
With a double-header against Arsenal FC to come in the next two matchdays, Martens knows the importance of the Standard visit to the Dutch champions' campaign. "It is a key match, as we both lost our first matches," he said. "If you are left empty-handed again, then you are really starting to fall behind. So it will be a very important match for us, just as Standard are also eager to grab the points."

Specialist subject
Unsurprisingly, Martens has kept a close eye on the Belgian titleholders. "I know Standard pretty well, I see them play a lot, although often I only see the highlights," Martens said. "To really know how they play tactically, we have to get more information, but I'm sure we will receive that from the scouts and coaches who will have seen them play, and that is important for us now. I know a lot of players. [Milan] Jovanović is important, [Axel] Witsel, who has not played much recently because of his suspension, and [Steven] Defour, who is injured, I know from the national team. Standard are defensively solid with a lot of strength, so they have a pretty complete team."