Maccabi vs AZ Alkmaar by Gustav
Maccabi Tel Aviv surprised a lot in the previous Europa League game, when the team won over AZ Alkmaar away from home 1:2 and boosted their chances of reaching the next phase almost out of nowhere. Visitors were nowhere close to pushovers in that game and deserved the victory having in mind their fighting spirit and will, but it needs to be said that the teams looked quite even and balanced on that night with the difference of efficiency.
Guests took the lead with a goal from Scarione in 24th minute and from that moment on, home side looked a bit better, all the way till 72nd minute when they leveled up the result via Muhren. However, last quarter of the game belonged to the visiting side which was more wiling to risk and in the end, they got what they wanted - via goal from Golasa in 82nd minute. Maccabi is now just a point away from Irish side Dundalk and since they will be awaiting them in the next round, Israelis are favorite to reach the next stage. Maccabi comes from two straight defeats in the domestic league, as they now stand third with three points less than leaders from Beer Sheva, so the team really needs a positive performance badly from every aspect.
AZ Alkmaar is having bad entrance into the Europa League group stage, since the team has only a point earned in first three rounds and in case they don't get a victory here, they will be surely overwritten two rounds before the end of the group stage. Only point was at home against modest side Dundalk, while they suffered heavy defeat against Russian giants from Zenit on the road, plus already described loss to Maccabi last time out.
As for Eredivisie, things have improved for them after a narrow victory over Den Haag last weekend 1:0, since they now stand at fifth position at the table, having six points more than eight placed side that is out of play-off positions. They are generally playing with a lot of ups and downs this season and will probably be trying to focus on Eredivisie more, since their chances in Europe are slowly vanishing. Important defenders Ron Vlaar (8/0) and Ridgeciano Haps (10/0) are both doubtful and might not be risked here.
I'm quite sure that motive will be playing important role in this game and that the Israelis are having way bigger motive here. They have improved the chances of reaching the next stage with a victory over the very same opponent they need to beat now and I'll be backing them gladly again. With the help of their own crowd, they should be able to do it.