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Alkmaar retain final belief

AZ Alkmaar's Co Adriaanse stays confident despite selection problems for Sporting Clube de Portugal's visit.

By Berend Scholten & Hugo Pietra

A yellow card shown to Olaf Lindenbergh 16 minutes from the end of last week's UEFA Cup semi-final first leg against Sporting Clube de Portugal has caused AZ Alkmaar coach Co Adriaanse headaches ahead of Thursday's return fixture.

First-leg deficit
The booking, Lindenbergh's third in as many games, rules the midfield player out of the second leg at the Alkmaarderhout. Michael Buskermolen is also suspended after being cautioned in Portugal, but Adriaanse is more concerned about the 31-year-old's absence as Alkmaar look to overturn a 2-1 deficit.

Formation dilemma
"Buskermolen is less of a problem, because Barry Opdam, returning from suspension, can play there," explained Adriaanse. "But the absence of Lindenbergh in midfield is more of a problem. I do not have a player who can replace him 100 per cent. So I have to choose between an extra midfielder, like in Portugal, or play with an extra attacker."

'More attacking'
Alkmaar must win to progress, but Adriaanse hinted at a cautious approach when he added: "What I decide upon will depend on tactics. We can try to score an early goal or wait until the end phase and strike then. The aim is to reach the final - that is why we'll have to be more attacking than we were in Lisbon."

'More chance'
Goalkeeper Henk Timmer (hamstring), Kew Jaliens (achilles) and Robin Nelisse (thigh) trained apart from the Alkmaar squad this week but are expected to recover - and Adriaanse is staying positive. "I really think we have more of a chance than they have - and I'm not just saying that to sound hopeful," he said.

Pinilla blow
The coach will be feeling even more confident following the news that Sporting's in-form forward Mauricio Pinilla will not play after tearing a thigh muscle in training on Tuesday. The 21-year-old has scored four goals in his last two games, including the winner against Alkmaar last week.

Double dream
Sporting coach José Peseiro will also be without Joseph Enakarhire, Rogerio and Carlos Martins, whose respective injuries may keep them out for the rest of the season. But Pedro Barbosa has recovered from a minor problem and the 34-year-old captain will travel to the Netherlands focused on success.

'Mental condition'
"I am very confident we will get a positive result against Alkmaar and make sure of our place in the final," he said. "We are confident in our abilities. More than our physical state, our mental condition will be crucial for the second match."

'Perfect shape'
Peseiro added: "We have played very well in various European stadiums this season and I am sure we will produce our best football here. My players are in perfect shape. Adriaanse has said he will be in Lisbon on 18 May? Well, he might have a room reservation but Sporting will be in the final, not AZ."

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