Maccabi Haifa FC have been impressive in qualifying this season and will look to keep the home wins coming as they host AZ Alkmaar in their UEFA Europa League Group L opener.
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Maccabi Haifa FC will look to make it through this stage for the first time since 2006/07 as they take on AZ Alkmaar in their first UEFA Europa League Group L game.
• The sides are meeting for the first time in UEFA competition and this is also AZ's first encounter with Israeli opponents.
• Maccabi's only previous experience of Dutch opposition was a 2000/01 UEFA Cup tie against a Vitesse XI led by future AZ coach Ronald Koeman; Maccabi lost 3-0 in Arnhem before a 2-1 victory in Haifa. Current Maccabi coach Arik Benado played in both games.
• Israeli sides have had the worst of the 18 club games between Israeli and Dutch outfits, with the record W5 D1 L11 (W4 D0 L4 at home).
• This is Maccabi's third attempt at this group stage. They made it through as far as the round of 16 on their UEFA Cup group stage debut in 2006/07 but missed the cut in 2011/12.
• Maccabi have made impressive progress through the qualifying rounds this season, with four wins and two draws – including three straight home wins – since entering in the second qualifying round. They have conceded just once in the course of those games while scoring 16 times.
• AZ are appearing in this group stage for the seventh time; losing UEFA Cup finalists in 1980/81, they made it through to the semi-finals after coming through the inaugural UEFA Cup group stage in 2004/05. In total, they have qualified four times.
• Prior to their 3-1 win at Atromitos FC in the play-offs, AZ were on a three-game losing streak away in Europe. They have also lost their last two European home games without scoring, this season's play-off 2-0 loss to Atromitos being preceded by a 5-0 defeat by FC Anji Makhachkala at the same stage in 2012/13 – their worst result home or away in European competition.
• That second leg against Atromitos was played over two days; the original fixture was suspended after 59 minutes due to a fire at the AZ Stadion with the score 1-0 to the visitors and then completed the following day. Atromitos scored a second but AZ clung on to progress on away goals.
• Alongside double winners NK Maribor (Slovenia) and Legia Warszawa (Poland), AZ are one of 11 teams in the group stage who are domestic cup holders, along with Wigan Athletic FC (England, FA Cup), Swansea City AFC (England, League Cup), FC Girondins de Bordeaux (France), Apollon Limassol FC (Cyprus), KRC Genk (Belgium), SS Lazio (Italy), Vitória SC (Portugal) and Esbjerg fB (Denmark).
• Maccabi left-back Shmuel Scheimann has experience of Dutch football having represented FC Den Bosch and SBV Excelsior from 2008 to 2012. He came up against AZ three times during that period, but was never on the winning side (D1 L2).
• Israel's most capped player, with 94 international appearances, former defender Benado has been coach of Maccabi since November 2012, having won seven of his nine domestic titles with the club – the other two coming during a spell at Beitar Jerusalem FC. After retiring at the end of 2010/11, Benado returned to the club that his father Shlomo had also played for as a youth coach before being given the first-team job.
• Gertjan Verbeek led AZ to the Dutch Cup last season – his first trophy since taking charge in 2010. A defender, he stayed on at sc Heerenveen to join the coaching staff after hanging up his boots, later taking charge of Heracles Almelo, Heerenveen and Feyenoord. His successes with those clubs means he has featured in all but one of the last ten editions of the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League.