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Sheriff face tough trip to AZ

AZ Alkmaar may no longer be unbeaten at home in UEFA competition but their opening Group E visitors FC Sheriff have a tough task in the light of their own away record in Europe.

AZ's third qualifying round win against IFK Göteborg kept up their impressive home European record
AZ's third qualifying round win against IFK Göteborg kept up their impressive home European record ©AFP

AZ Alkmaar's famous unbeaten European home record may have been broken a few years back, but they still represent a major obstacle for FC Sheriff in their opening UEFA Europa League Group E tie.

Previous meetings
• The teams are meeting for the first time in UEFA club competition, and this is also AZ's maiden encounter with Moldovan opposition.

• Sheriff's only meetings with a Dutch side came in last season's UEFA Europa League group stage against FC Twente. They secured their sole victory in the round, 2-0 at home, but lost 2-1 in the return fixture in Enschede.

Match background
• AZ are unbeaten in five home games since a 3-2 defeat by Everton FC in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup group stage ended one of the most impressive home records in UEFA club competition; prior to that, they were unbeaten in 32 continental home fixtures.

• Returning to the competition for a second season in succession, after making it to the group stage of a UEFA club competition for the first time in 2009/10, Sheriff have not won in eight European away games since a 1-0 UEFA Champions League second qualifying round victory at FC International Turku on 15 July 2009.

• Regulars in UEFA Champions League qualifying thanks to their run of ten straight Moldovan titles – the longest current streak in Europe – Sheriff have yet to win an away game in five UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League attempts. Their goal in the 2-1 loss at Twente is the only one they have scored on their travels in the competition.

Team facts
• AZ coach Gertjan Verbeek was a defender who spent his whole career at SC Heerenveen, barring a season on loan with Heracles Almelo. After retiring, he became Heerenveen assistant coach before striking out alone with Heracles from 2001 to 2004, and then replacing Foppe de Haan at his other old club. In 2008 he was lured to Feyenoord, but fared poorly. However, AZ took him on after a fine 2009/10 season back at Heracles.

• Sheriff coach Andrei Sosnitski took over at the helm following the departure of his former boss and fellow Belarusian Leonid Kuchuk, midway through the 2009/10 season, but it was soon business as usual with the club winning another domestic double. Initially a trainee at FC Dinamo Minsk, he later played for FC Alania Vladikavkaz, FC Uralmash Ekaterinburg and FC Chernomorets Novorossiysk before finishing his playing career – and starting out as an assistant coach at FC Dinamo Brest and FC Slavia Mozyr.

• Sosnitski is not unaware of coaching innovations from the Netherlands. He once said: "I like the Dutch 'Total Football' style. I keep trying to improve along with my players by analysing everything new in the world of football."