Dundalk v AZ background

Dundalk have retained the Irish title in recent weeks and lost a cup final, but their last target of 2016 is to make it to the round of 32, with AZ their final Group D visitors.

Dundalk's John Mountney up against Ridgeciano Haps of AZ
Dundalk's John Mountney up against Ridgeciano Haps of AZ ©Sportsfile

Dundalk's next target is to become the first Irish side to make it through a major UEFA group stage as they welcome underperforming AZ Alkmaar in UEFA Europa League Group D.

• Dundalk and Maccabi Tel-Aviv meet on matchday six so neither can go through or out before that.

• AZ are eliminated if they lose, or if they draw and Maccabi avoid defeat; Zenit have a maximum 12 points and have already won the group.

Previous meetings
• Ciaran Kilduff's late goal earned Dundalk a 1-1 draw at Alkmaar – and the first point for an Irish club in the UEFA Europa League group stage – when the teams met for the first time on matchday one.

• Dundalk's record in five matches against Eredivisie opposition is W0 D2 L3. Those defeats include a 6-0 loss to PSV Eindhoven in the second leg of a 1976/77 European Cup first-round tie.

• AZ's only previous encounters with Irish opponents came in a 1982/83 UEFA Cup first-round clash with Limerick, the Dutch side edging through 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-0 second-leg success in Alkmaar.

Form guide
• Dundalk have scored once in all four of their Group D games to date, those four goals earning them four points. This is the 11th match of what is comfortably their longest European campaign ever.

• AZ are without a win in their last seven group stage away fixtures (D3 L4).

• Dundalk are making their UEFA group stage debut. The only Irish club to have previously graced a UEFA Europa League group stage are Shamrock Rovers, who lost all six of their games in 2011/12.

• AZ have successfully negotiated five of their eight preceding UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League group stage campaigns.

Links and trivia
• The journey from Alkmaar to Dundalk is around 750km.

• Since they last met AZ, Dundalk have confirmed their third successive Irish league title, though they lost 1-0 to Cork City in the FAI Cup final on 6 November. Their domestic season is now over.

The coaches
• Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny started his managerial career with Longford Town, aged 27, and won a league championship with Bohemians in 2002/03, aged 32. Hired by Dundalk in 2013, he steered the club to Irish league crowns in 2014 and 2015.

• AZ coach John van den Brom spent the bulk of his playing career as a midfielder with Vitesse and was capped twice by the Netherlands. As a coach, he landed the Belgian title with Anderlecht in 2013, taking command in Alkmaar in 2014.