Aston Villa take on AZ Alkmaar in the Europa Conference League on Thursday night in a clash that sees the fifth place side in the Premier League play the second place side in the Eredivisie. AZ have experienced a fantastic start to their campaign, winning eight and drawing two of their opening ten matches. However, Pascal Jansen’s side have struggled to transfer their league form into the Conference League. Last time out, AZ suffered a heavy 4-1 home defeat to Aston Villa. Their other defeat in the group was to Bosnian side Zrinjski. Now, they face an even tougher task at Villa Park.
Unai Emery’s Aston Villa have been superb so far this season, but their defeat to Nottingham Forest last weekend will have shown AZ that it is possible to beat them. The Villans are currently second in Group E behind Legia Warsaw. AZ sit rock bottom of the group and three points on Thursday could give them a boost up to first place if results go their way.
Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn has scored three goals in his side’s last six matches, with two of those coming in the Conference League. For AZ, Vangelis Pavlidis is currently the Eredivisie’s top scorer with 14 goals in ten matches. The Greek striker is the first player to score a goal in ten Eredivisie games in a row since Wilfried Bony in 2013. The average age of the AZ Alkmaar squad is just 23.7, whereas Aston Villa have an average squad age of 27.1. Can Pascal Jansen’s young AZ Alkmaar side shock Unai Emery’s Villans? Or will Villa keep up their incredible home form with another Conference League victory?