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Aston Villa logo
Europa Conference League | Group Stage
Nov 9, 2023 at 8pm UK
Villa Park
AZ Alkmaar
Aston Villa
2 - 1
Carlos (61'), Watkins (81')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Pavlidis (52')

Preview: Aston Villa vs. AZ Alkmaar - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa Conference League clash between Aston Villa and AZ Alkmaar, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Seeking to consolidate their place inside Group E's top two, Aston Villa reconvene with Europa Conference League rivals AZ Alkmaar at Villa Park on Thursday.

Villa ran riot in Alkmaar last month to move onto six points at the halfway stage, while AZ were left on three following a harsh lesson from their Premier League counterparts.

Match preview

Aston Villa's Youri Tielemans celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on October 21, 2023© Reuters

Entering the Conference League's third matchday, both points and goal difference were level between all four teams in a finely-poised Group E table, but wins for Legia Warsaw and Aston Villa took the pair clear with three games to play.

While Legia beat Zrinjski 2-1 in Bosnia, Villa strode to a comprehensive victory over AZ, who were already four goals down before the hour-mark, as Leon Bailey, Youri Tielemans, Ollie Watkins and John McGinn all got their names on the scoresheet before Ibrahim Sadiq pulled one back later on.

Unai Emery's side certainly needed such a result, as suffering a 3-2 defeat to Legia in their opening match left them behind the eight-ball; back-to-back wins since have put Villa in charge of their own destiny.

Their 1-0 defeat of Zrinjski came as part of a superb unbeaten run throughout October, which brought 13 goals from five games and helped the Birmingham club ascend to the Premier League's top four.

However, the goals finally dried up on Sunday, when Villa's 10-match scoring streak came to an end in a 2-0 loss at Nottingham Forest that leaves them fifth in the table.

The 1982 European champions booked their long-awaited return to continental competition by finishing seventh last term, and Emery's twin goals of improving that ranking and going all the way in Europe will remain on track if they can do the double over AZ.

AZ Alkmaar players pose for a team group photo before the match on October 26, 2023© Reuters

After coming out empty-handed from an incredible clash with Zrinjski in their Group E opener - somehow letting a three-goal lead slip to lose 4-3 - AZ responded by picking up maximum points against Legia Warsaw despite being reduced to 10 men midway through the second half.

However, their home loss to Aston Villa last time out leaves the Dutch club three points shy of an all-important top-two place, so they cannot afford to fall further behind by losing to the English side again.

Villa boast a recent record of 12 Premier League home wins on the bounce, though, and there was an apparent gulf between the teams when they met last month in the Netherlands.

Nonetheless, AZ have won eight of their 10 Eredivisie fixtures so far this season - joining Twente and Feyenoord in the chasing pack behind flawless league leaders PSV - and they have averaged over 2.5 goals per game in domestic competition.

Saturday's 1-1 draw with Excelsior could quite easily have improved that impressive record, as Mayckel Lahdo's strike seemed set to move Pascal Jansen's men clear in second spot; however, conceding a stoppage-time equaliser has slightly quelled their momentum.

Aston Villa Europa Conference League form:

Aston Villa form (all competitions):

AZ Alkmaar Europa Conference League form:

AZ Alkmaar form (all competitions):

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Team News

Aston Villa manager Unai Emery reacts on October 29, 2023© Reuters

Heading into successive home games - with the second coming against Fulham at the weekend - Unai Emery is likely to make a number of changes to his starting XI on Thursday evening.

Villa's Basque boss remains without long-term absentees Tyrone Mings and Emi Buendia, plus Jacob Ramsey (ankle), but Alex Moreno has recovered from a hamstring injury he initially suffered at the end of last season and Jhon Duran is back in the fold following a toe infection.

Should Moreno be deemed fit enough to start for the first time since aggravating the problem in September, Lucas Digne would be given an overdue rest; Youri Tielemans and Leon Bailey - both scorers in the reverse fixture - may also be among those promoted from the bench.

AZ are expected to switch from a three-man attack to a more cautious 4-2-3-1 formation at Villa Park, with Greece international Vangelis Pavlidis leading the line after scoring 13 goals in 10 Eredivisie appearances this term.

Captain Bruno Martins Indi - no stranger to England after a spell with Stoke City earlier in his career - was recalled to the starting lineup on Saturday, but it remains to be seen whether Alexandre Penetra will return to the visitors' back four in Birmingham.

Jens Odgaard should deputise for Mayckel Lahdo on the right wing: although the latter scored as a substitute at the weekend, he must complete a UEFA suspension for being sent off against Zrinjski.

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Martinez; Konsa, Carlos, Lenglet, Moreno; Bailey, Tielemans, Luiz, McGinn; Zaniolo, Watkins

AZ Alkmaar possible starting lineup:
Ryan; Sugawara, Bazoer, Penetra, Wolfe; Clasie, Mijnans; Odgaard, D. De Wit, Van Brederode; Pavlidis

SM words green background

We say: Aston Villa 2-1 AZ Alkmaar

While Aston Villa can be vulnerable at the back, their home record is simply superb, and AZ will arrive at Villa Park more in trepidation than expectation. It should be a slightly closer contest than last month's game in Alkmaar, as the Dutch side will have learned their lessons and could push Villa all the way.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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Aston Villa's Youri Tielemans celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on October 21, 2023
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Group A

2Slovan Bratislava531110

Group B

2Maccabi Tel Aviv540112

Group C

2Dinamo Zagreb52036
4KF Ballkani51134

Group D


Group E

1Aston Villa540112
4Zrinjski Mostar51043

Group F


Group G

4HJK Helsinki50232

Group H

4Spartak Trnava50141

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