LASK's longest European campaign continues with a second visit this season to the Netherlands, where they visit AZ Alkmaar.
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Winners of Group D, LASK's longest, most productive European campaign continues in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 with a second visit this season to the Netherlands. The Austrian club take on an AZ side who return to their previously out-of-action stadium in Alkmaar.
• AZ finished runners-up to Manchester United in Group L, securing their place in the knockout phase on Matchday 5 with a last-gasp 2-2 draw against qualifying rivals Partizan in The Hague – their temporary home following damage to the AZ Stadion – before losing their unbeaten record with a final-day 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford. LASK, conversely, ended their group campaign with a show of strength, beating Sporting CP 3-0 in Linz to leapfrog their visitors to the top of the Group D standings.
• The clubs have never met in UEFA competition.
• AZ's only previous home fixture against Austrian visitors was a 2-2 draw against Austria Wien in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League – a season in which the Dutch club reached the quarter-finals.
• LASK have yet to win or score in two trips to the Netherlands, losing 0-2 at Utrecht in the first round of the 1987/88 UEFA Cup (and on aggregate) and drawing 0-0 at PSV Eindhoven in this season's group stage before coming from behind to beat them 4-1 at home two weeks later with goals from Reinhold Ranftl, Dominik Frieser and a double from Brazilian striker Klauss.
• AZ finished fourth in the 2018/19 Eredivisie at the end of a campaign that started with a shock defeat by Kairat Almaty in the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round – the earliest European exit in the club's history.
• The Alkmaar club negotiated three summer preliminary ties this season, knocking out BK Häcken, Mariupol and Antwerp, to reach the UEFA Europa League group stage for the sixth time. They came through as runners-up to United with nine points, scoring 15 goals, the joint highest tally in the competition, 11 of those being registered in their only two wins, both against Astana (6-0 h, 5-0 a).
• This is AZ's fourth appearance in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase. They have unhappy memories of the most recent, in 2016/17, when they were heavily beaten by Lyon (1-4 h, 1-7 a), but won their first two ties at this juncture, against Anderlecht in 2011/12 (1-0 h, 1-0 a) and Slovan Liberec in 2013/14 (1-0 a, 1-1 h) and went on to reach the quarter-finals in each of those campaigns.
• The 1980/81 UEFA Cup runners-up were unbeaten in their first 11 European games this season (W5 D6), keeping seven clean sheets, before losing at Old Trafford last time out. Their all-time home record in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase is W4 D1 L2, the defeats coming in the two most recent ties.
• Runners-up to Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga last season, LASK also took part in UEFA competition for the first time since 2000 but were eliminated on away goals by Beşiktaş in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round.
• LASK began this season's European journey in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, where they beat Basel (2-1 a, 3-1 h) before losing to Club Brugge (0-1 h, 1-2 a). That meant a first ever participation in the UEFA Europa League group stage, where they thrived, winning all three home games, registering 13 points and topping a group containing three European stalwarts in Sporting, PSV and Rosenborg.
• This is LASK's first taste of springtime European football. Their previous best seasons in continental competition were 1984/85 and 1985/86, when they reached the UEFA Cup second round.
• The Linz club have won three and lost three of their last seven European away games.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Håkon Evjen (Bodø/Glimt), Ramon Leeuwin (Odense)
Out: Léon Bergsma (Den Bosch, loan), Tijjani Reijnders (RKC Waalwijk, loan)
In: Husein Balić (St. Pölten), Christian Ramsebner, Dominik Reiter*, David Schnegg*
Out: Yusuf Otubanjo (Ararat), Emanuel Pogatetz
Links and trivia
• LASK's Australian midfielder James Holland joined AZ in 2009, but he never made a first-team appearance for the club.
• LASK were one of six clubs to make their debut this season in the UEFA Europa League group stage, and one of just three, along with Espanyol and Wolves, to progress through to the knockout phase.
• LASK resumed their Austrian Bundesliga campaign after the winter break with a 3-2 win at Salzburg last Friday – a result that took them above their hosts at the top of the table.
• 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.
• A former central defender who started out with home-town club Strasbourg, Valérien Ismaël spent the latter part of his career in Germany, winning the domestic double with both Werder Bremen and Bayern. His final club, Hannover, gave the Frenchman his first coaching opportunity in charge of the reserves, and he occupied a similar role at Wolfsburg, which was punctuated by a brief spell as head coach at Nürnberg. After another short stint as the main man at Wolfsburg, from October 2016 to February 2017, he resurfaced in Austria as the new boss of LASK in May 2019.
UEFA Europa League knockout debut for VAR system
Video Assistant Referees (VAR) will be deployed in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase. The decision was taken by the UEFA Executive Committee last September, following the introduction of the system in several UEFA competitions in the 2018/19 campaign.