Dundee United v AZ Alkmaar: ‘We don’t want to be European football tourists’ – Jack Ross

Brian McLauchlin and Jack Ross
Jack Ross (right) spoke to BBC Scotland’s Brian McLauchlin before Dundee United’s tie with AZ
Venue: Tannadice Park, Dundee dates: Thursday, August 4th Kick off: 20:00 BST
coverage: Watch on BBC Scotland & iPlayer, listen on BBC Radio Scotland Extra/DAB/810MW, live text commentary on BBC Sport website & app

Dundee United “don’t want to be European football tourists”, head coach Jack Ross says as his side prepare to host AZ Alkmaar.

Thursday’s Europa Conference League third qualifying round first leg against the Dutch side will be Ross’ first competitive home game as United head coach.

“We want to be as professional as we can and progress for as long as we can in the tournament,” Ross, whose side drew 1-1 with Kilmarnock in Saturday’s Premiership opener, told BBC Scotland.

“We don’t want to be European football tourists. Equally, you should always still enjoy the environment and the occasion that’s generated. I don’t think players should just let that pass them by.

“We need to have an energy and an aggression about our performance with the ball along with without it and we need to harness that energy we’ll get from the crowd.”

AZ have already come through one round of qualifying, beating Tuzla City of Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 at home before a comprehensive 4-0 victory in the return and, although Ross expects “a challenging tie”, he doesn’t think “it’s one that’s insurmountable for us”.

Rival boss Pascal Jansen declared his side “ready” to face United in the match being broadcast live on the BBC Scotland channel despite the fact their own domestic season has yet to start.

The London-born boss does not quite expect the atmosphere his side faced last season at Celtic Park, where they lost 2-0 before falling short of reaching the Europa League group stage on aggregate despite a 2-1 win in the second leg of their qualifier, but still anticipates “a difficult fight” against “a physical team”.

team news

New midfield signing Jamie McGrath could feature for United after joining on loan from Wigan Athletic, international clearance should come through in time.

Jens Odgaard, the Danish striker signed this summer from Italian club Sassuolo after a loan spell in the Dutch top flight with Waalwijk, misses out for AZ with a hamstring injury picked up against Tuzla.

Meanwhile, right-back Yukinari Sugawara, who has been capped once by Japan, “is fairly close to a return”.

Who are AZ?

Like United, AZ have a long European pedigree with their pinnacle being beaten finalists – in Alkmaar’s case, the 1981 Uefa Cup final.

They also reached the semi-finals in 2004-05 and the quarters in 2006-07 before also reaching the last eight of the Europa League in 2011-12 and 2013-14.

Jansen’s side, who start their domestic season on Sunday against Go Ahead Eagles, finished fifth in last season’s Eredivisie and are aiming to feature in the Conference League group stage for a second year in a row.

They won their group by finishing above Randers, Jablonec and Cluj last season before losing 4-3 on aggregate to Bodo/Glimt, the Norwegian side who had swept Celtic aside in the previous round.

AZ sold Netherlands international Owen Wijndal to Ajax and fellow left-back Thomas Ouwejan to Schwalke 04 this summer, with Mees de Wit arriving from Zwolle as a replacement.

Midfielder Fredrik Midtsjo was sold to Galatasaray, being replaced with Dutch international Riechedly Bazoer on a free from Vitesse.

Others who have international caps are central defenders Zinho Vanheusden, the Belgian on loan from Inter Milan, Greece’s Pantelis Chatzidiakos and Netherlands’ Bruno Martins Indi, plus Dutch midfielder Jordy Clasie, Greek striker Vangelis Pavlidis and Sweden forward Jesper Karlsson.

match stats

  • Both sides have reached one European final – AZ losing to Ipswich Town in the 1981 Uefa Cup and United being beaten by IFK Gothenburg in the climax to the same tournament six years later.
  • This is United’s first game in European competition since losing 7-2 on aggregate to Dynamo Moscow in the Europa League qualifiers in 2012.
  • AZ reached last season’s Europa Conference League last 16, losing to Bodo/Glimt.
  • United have twice played Dutch teams in European competition – beating PSV Eindhoven 3-1 on aggregate in the 1982-83 Uefa Cup first round but losing 5-0 on aggregate to Vitesse Arnhem in the 1990-91 Uefa Cup second round.
  • AZ have faced Scottish sides twice previously in European competition – beating Rangers 1-0 at home in the 2004-05 Uefa Cup group stage but losing 3-2 on aggregate to Celtic in last season’s Europa League final qualifier.

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