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Anderlecht on edge for AZ decider

RSC Anderlecht were the stars of the UEFA Europa League group stage, but need to recover from a 1-0 first-leg defeat if they are to overcome AZ Alkmaar and reach the round of 16.

AZ (in red) hold a narrow advantage after the first leg
AZ (in red) hold a narrow advantage after the first leg ©Getty Images

RSC Anderlecht shone in the UEFA Europa League group stage, but are 1-0 down as they take on AZ Alkmaar in Brussels, looking to line up a UEFA Europa League round of 16 meeting with Udinese Calcio or PAOK FC.

• Anderlecht came to the Netherlands as the only side to have won all six of their UEFA Europa League group games this season, but could not respond to Adam Maher's third European goal of the campaign after 35 minutes.

Previous meetings
• The sides have been paired for the first time in UEFA competition.

• Anderlecht's 13 games against Dutch opponents ended W8 D2 L3 (W4 D1 L1 at home).

• Anderlecht lost to another Dutch team, AFC Ajax, at this stage of last season's competition, falling 3-0 at home and 2-0 in Amsterdam.

• AZ's record against Belgian sides reads W2 D2 L1 (W0 D1 L1 in Belgium).

Match background
• Anderlecht are in the round of 32 for the fourth time in five seasons; they made it to the last 16 in 2007/08 and 2009/10 but were beaten by Ajax last season.

• Going into the first leg, Ariël Jacobs' men were unbeaten in eight European outings this term − seven wins and a draw. Their four European home games this season have produced a draw and then three victories, and 14 goals − an average of well over three a game.

• AZ are on an eight-match unbeaten run in Europe − three victories and five draws. However, they have not won in 15 away games in Europe (seven draws, eight defeats) since beating FC Paços de Ferreira 1-0 in the UEFA Cup first round on 20 September 2007.

• The Dutch outfit are playing European football in the spring for the first time since 2006/07, when they beat Fenerbahçe SK and Newcastle United FC before bowing out to SV Werder Bremen in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals.

Team facts
• Anderlecht's Matías Suárez remains the top scorer in the UEFA Europa League with seven goals, with FC Lokomotiv Moskva's Dmitri Sychev one strike behind him on six.

• Former Anderlecht trainee Maarten Martens played just one league game for the club in 2003/04 before heading to RKC Waalwijk and, in 2006, AZ.

• Anderlecht's Dieudonné Mbokani and Milan Jovanović took on AZ in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League group stage with R. Standard de Liège; Standard edged out AZ to finish third in the section, both of their direct encounters ending 1-1.

• Anderlecht were the top scorers in the UEFA Europa League group stage with 18 goals − nine in each half. They were the only side to earn a maximum haul of 18 points.

• Anderlecht's 5-3 win against FC Lokomotiv Moskva was the highest-scoring game of the group stage.

• AZ coach Gertjan Verbeek spent most of his playing career as a defender at sc Heerenveen, barring a season on loan at Heracles Almelo in 1986/87. He has twice coached Heracles (2001-04 and 2009-10) either side of stints in charge of Heerenveen (2004-08) and, briefly, Feyenoord in 2008/09. AZ brought him in at the start of 2010/11.

• Jacobs has been Anderlecht coach since November 2007. Formerly a striker he spent most of his playing career with K. Diegem Sport, serving the Belgian outfit in four separate spells (1965-70, 1973-79, 1980-1983 and 1984-87). He later coached youth teams for the Royal Belgian Football Association (URBSFA-KBVB) and acted as assistant to national team coach  Guy Thys before returning to club football with RWD Molenbeek, RAA Louviéroise, KSC Lokeren OV and R. Excelsior Mouscron.

Round of 16
• The winners will take on Udinese or PAOK in the round of 16 on 8 and 15 March, playing the first leg at home.

• AZ have never come across Udinese but took on PAOK in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup first round, winning 3-2 in Salonika and 2-1 at home.

• Anderlecht have met neither of their potential opponents in UEFA  competition.

Competition statistics
• An updated version of the UEFA Europa League Statistics Handbook is available here: