AZ Alkmaar equalled the record margin of victory for a UEFA Europa League group stage match when they beat Astana 6-0 on Matchday 3.
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AZ Alkmaar equalled the record margin of victory for a UEFA Europa League group stage match when they beat Astana 6-0 in The Hague on Matchday 3, so they travel with confidence to the capital of Kazakhstan for the rematch against hosts who, without a Group L point to their name, need a win to keep alive their slim hopes of further progress.
• Prior to suffering their heaviest European defeat last time out, Astana lost 1-0 to Manchester United at Old Trafford then 1-2 at home to Partizan, while AZ drew their opening two fixtures, holding Partizan 2-2 in Serbia and United 0-0 in the Netherlands.
• The Matchday 3 encounter was Astana's first UEFA fixture against Dutch opposition.
• AZ have made three previous visits to Kazakhstan and are yet to register a win (D1 L2), the most recent visit bringing a 2-0 defeat at Kairat Almaty that contributed to a 3-2 aggregate loss in last season's UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.
• Astana collected their fifth straight domestic title in 2018 while also playing no fewer than 16 European matches in that calendar year, the last six in the UEFA Europa League group stage, where they finished third in their section with eight points. This season they again came through four summer qualifying ties, the first a defeat by CFR Cluj in the UEFA Champions League, before eventually squeezing past BATE Borisov in the UEFA Europa League play-offs (3-0 h, 0-2 a).
• Astana's maiden UEFA Europa League group campaign in 2016/17 ended unsuccessfully with five points, but they doubled that number the following season to finish second in their section and qualify for a first ever crack at springtime European football. It lasted just two matches, Sporting CP overcoming them 6-4 on aggregate in the round of 32.
• Astana won all four of their home qualifiers this summer, scoring 13 goals and conceding two, and have emerged victorious from nine of their last 12 European games in Kazakhstan, losing the other three. Their home record in the UEFA Europa League group stage is W4 D3 L3, with defeats in each of the last two.
• Fourth in the 2018/19 Eredivisie at the end of a campaign that started with that shock European defeat by Kairat, AZ are one of three Dutch clubs in this season's group stage, alongside PSV and Feyenoord.
• The Alkmaar club's six group stage participations have all required pre-qualification and this season they negotiated more summer preliminary ties than ever before, three in total, knocking out BK Häcken, Mariupol and, after extra time in the play-offs, Antwerp (1-1 h, 4-1 a). They have progressed to the knockout phase on three occasions, reaching the quarter-finals in 2011/12 and 2013/14 and the round of 32 in 2016/17.
• The 1980/81 UEFA Cup runners-up are unbeaten in their nine European games this season (W4 D5), keeping six clean sheets, but outside the qualifying phase they have posted just one win on their travels in their last ten continental fixtures (D4 L5), 1-0 against Dundalk in Dublin three seasons ago.
Links and trivia
• Romanian international Dorin Rotariu moved to Astana in the summer after playing eight Eredivisie games on loan for AZ last season.
• Astana's Curacao international striker Rangelo Janga was born in Rotterdam and played for Dutch clubs Willem II, Excelsior and Dordrecht.
• Astana's Aleksandr Mokin and Sergei Khizhnichenko played for Shakhter Karagandy in a 1-1 draw at home to AZ in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League group stage.
• Astana made it six domestic championship titles in succession on Sunday as they won 1-0 at Tobol while rivals Kairat went down 5-0 at Irtysh, leaving the defending champions holding an unassailable four-point lead with one game to go.
• A free-scoring Ukrainian striker, Roman Hryhorchuk has made his name as a coach in eastern Europe, starting out in Latvia, where he won three league titles and two domestic cups during a four-year spell with Ventspils. He went on to coach Chornomorets Odesa in his homeland and Azerbaijan's Gabala for similar periods, overseeing UEFA Europa League group stage campaigns for both, before replacing Stanimir Stoilov at Kazakh champions Astana in June 2018. He missed the latter weeks of last year's league title win for personal reasons but has overseen the 2019 triumph from start to finish.
• When John van den Brom ended his five-year stint as AZ's head coach by moving to Utrecht in summer 2019, his job was passed on to assistant Arne Slot, whose first task was to steer the Alkmaar club through three qualifying rounds into the UEFA Europa League group stage. This is his first post as a head coach although he is a well-known former player in the Netherlands having operated in the Eredivisie for NAC Breda, Sparta Rotterdam and PEC Zwolle, where he started both his playing and coaching careers, the latter in charge of the youth side in 2013/14.