Advocaat has faith in young team
Advocaat has faith in young team
Dick Advocaat led Zenit St Petersburg to European glory five years ago and the veteran Dutch manager is plotting another adventure after taking over at AZ Alkmaar.
The 66-year-old former Holland and Russia boss looked to have taken charge of his final club game when he left PSV Eindhoven at the end of last season, with indications he did not fancy a return to day-to-day management.
But he was persuaded undertake a second spell as manager of AZ, following a short tenure during the 2009-10 season, and inherits a team two games into a Europa League group campaign.
On Thursday they face what Advocaat has warned will be a tricky assignment against Kazakh side Shakhter Karagandy, a team that almost denied Celtic a place in the Champions League.
AZ top Group L, but Advocaat, whose Zenit team lifted the UEFA Cup in 2008 with victory over his former club Rangers, is taking nothing for granted ahead of the tussle in Astana.
He said: "This kind of competition is good experience. For many young players these are new circumstances that they can only learn from.
"Shakhter Karagandy have a good team. They beat Celtic 2-0 here in Astana which says something. They nearly got in the Champions League. I've also seen them play against Maccabi Haifa, where they came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2.
"We don't think about losing. With our promising young team, we can cause difficulties for any opponent.
"The match will be played on artificial turf, and that takes some getting used to. The ball goes faster and control is trickier, but we must respond."
PAOK Salonika face Maccabi in the other Group L game.
Tottenham are early favourites for the Europa League trophy, and after convincing early wins over Anzhi Makhachkala and Tromso they have travelled to Tiraspol to face FC Sheriff. Anzhi and Tromso do battle in the other Group K game.
Fiorentina have also looked bright early on, and following a fine Serie A win against Juventus at the weekend they face Romanian side Pandurii Targu-Jiu in Florence.
Giuseppe Rossi netted a hat-trick against Juventus and, if selected, will be an obvious threat to a team in its first European campaign.
Fiorentina captain Manuel Pasqual said: "The victory against Juventus was a beautiful day but we have to think about Pandurii and then Chievo."
Also in Group E, Pacos Ferreira and Dnipro go head to head, with both able to compare war wounds having lost to Fiorentina in the opening two rounds of games.
Lazio are in Cyprus for a Group J tussle with Apollon Limassol, with Trabzonspor going head to head against Legia Warsaw in the same group.
Liberec will be eyeing a shock, and top spot in Group H, when they have home advantage against early leaders Sevilla. Freiburg and Estoril also do battle.
Sevilla's fellow Spaniards Valencia continue to attempt to repair the damage from their opening thumping by Swansea as they face St Gallen at the Mestalla. Group A leaders Swansea welcome Kuban Krasnodar to south Wales.
Another Spanish side, Real Betis, have begun in Group I with two draws, and tackle front-runners Guimaraes in Seville. Lyon and Rijeka engage in France.
Group B sees Ludogorets aim to preserve their 100% start away to Chernomorets, while Dinamo Zagreb, now under the charge of Zoran Mamic after Branko Ivankovic was dismissed on Tuesday, take on PSV Eindhoven.
Like Dinamo, Bordeaux have yet to post a point after two games. The French side will attempt to revive their Group F campaign when they play with home advantage against Apoel Nicosia, while Eintracht Frankfurt play Maccabi Tel-Aviv in Germany.
Elsewhere, Group C sees Red Bull Salzburg face Standard Liege, and IF Elfsborg tackle Esbjerg. FA Cup winners Wigan play Rubin Kazan in north-west England in Group D, and Zulte-Waregem go up against Maribor.
Genk lead Group G after back-to-back wins, and welcome Rapid Vienna to Belgium, while slow-starting Dynamo Kiev take on FC Thun.