AZ count on Advocaat against Anji

AZ count on Advocaat against Anji

AZ Alkmaar suffered their heaviest European defeat at the hands of FC Anji Makhachkala last season, but with Dick Advocaat now at the tiller – and the Russian side much changed – AZ are hoping to make amends.

"We are delighted we are through to the round of 16 and I hope we will still be in contention in the next round too," said Anji defender Rasim Tagirbekov. "AZ Alkmaar will be a big game, a tough game. We played against them in the Europa League a year ago and we won 5-0 in the Netherlands, but then we had a team full of stars. I hope we can win this time as well."

AZ have not undergone so dramatic a transformation as their opponents, but they have lost the likes of Jozy Altidore, Maarten Martens and Adam Maher, and now have Advocaat in charge. The Dutchman will look to provide the inside track on Anji, having previously had spells with the Russia national team and FC Zenit, where he won the UEFA Cup in 2008.

"The coach is hugely important for us," AZ forward Aron Jóhannsson, who has scored 16 league goals this season, told "With his experience, we can go a long way. He has won this trophy before so his advice at this stage of a competition is priceless."

Defender Nick Viergever, who was involved in last season's play-off tie, was also keen to flag up Advocaat's influence. "He's such a nice guy with a wealth of experience," he said. "He has achieved so much in his career, from being Russia coach to winning lots of domestic trophies. He transmits that experience to our young group of players. He is still very motivated and eager to do well."

Anji are bottom of the Russian Premier League with just one win all season, but the sage Advocaat is not expecting a walkover. "They are not the same team as they were under Guus," acknowledged the 66-year-old. "Anji have changed a lot. How good they are is hard to say, but when you win 2-0 in Genk [as Anji did in the round of 32], then you prove you are still capable of doing something."

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