At a time when the home side sit in second position in the standings, Heracles are in the mid-table spots after a solid start to the new campaign.
Even before the issues that Ajax are experiencing on and off the pitch, AZ would have fancied themselves for a title push this season having pushed the top three hard in 2022-23.
That is how it is proving with five wins being posted in a row in the top flight, albeit against opposition who they would have expected to overcome.
A total of 15 goals have been netted and just the two conceded, with Pascal Jansen's side most recently seeing off a PEC Zwolle side that were undefeated in three games by a 3-0 scoreline on away territory.
Vangelis Pavlidis has a sensational seven goals to his name in the league, yet he was powerless to prevent AZ succumbing to a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Zrinjski Mostar in the Europa Conference League last week.
With AZ letting slip a three-goal half-time lead to lose that fixture in Bosnia-Herzegovina, it was a reminder that they are far from the finished article and must retain the high standards that they have set from last season.
From the perspective of Heracles, they can be delighted with their start to the season on the back of promotion from the second tier.
Although defeats have been posted against Ajax and FC Utrecht, the wins over NEC Nijmegen and Excelsior have provided them with some breathing space in their efforts to avoid a relegation scrap.
Last time out, John Lammers's side earned a 2-2 draw away at winless FC Volendam, although it would have felt like two points lost having held a 2-0 advantage heading into the final 20 minutes.
Nevertheless, this appears to be a team that are heading in the right direction, and there will be further opportunities to extend their four-point margin above the bottom three in the fixtures that follow the test at the AFAS Stadion.
Jansen may be tempted to rotate a few of his AZ players given their relentless schedule of games in the coming months.
At the same time, he took the opportunity to rest players during the second half against PEC Zwolle, with Jens Odgaard and Ibrahim Sadiq the most likely to be handed opportunities in the starting lineup if changes are made.
Bruno Martins Indi came through 19 minutes on his return from a long layoff, but the defender will remain among the replacements for this fixture.
Barring any fitness issues, Lammers could decide to stick with the same Heracles XI which were winning 2-1 last time out before substitutions were made.
AZ Alkmaar possible starting lineup:
Ryan; Sugawara, Bazoer, Penetra, Wolfe; Clasie, Mijnans; Lahdo, De Wit, Brederode; Pavlidis
Heracles possible starting lineup:
Brouwer; Bakboord, Bultman, Hoogma, Willems; Keersmaecker, Bruns, Ouahim; Limbombe, Engels, Hansson
We say: AZ Alkmaar 3-0 Heracles
With two wins already under their belt this season, Heracles can afford to play with a certain level of freedom at one of the title contenders. Nevertheless, we expect AZ to cruise to a routine win, further showcasing their credentials to push Feyenoord all the way.
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