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Everything you need to know about AZ Alkmaar and Tuzla City as Dundee United learn Europa Conference League fate

United's potential foes
United's potential foes

Dundee United will face either AZ Alkmaar or FK Tuzla City in the third qualifying round of the Europa Conference League.

The first leg will be played on August 4 at Tannadice, with the return in either Alkmaar or Sarajevo (not Tuzla, as will be explained) seven days later.

Here, Courier Sport analyses the task that would await the Tangerines against both clubs.

AZ Alkmaar

Domestic history

Founded in 1967, AZ — or De Kaasboeren (the cheese farmers) — have gone on to enjoy modest success in the Netherlands, albeit struggling to trouble established giants Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord.

AZ won their first Eredivisie title in 1979/80 and had to wait until 2008/09, under the watchful eye of Louis van Gaal, for their second.

AZ celebrate as European football is assured last term.
AZ celebrate as European football is assured last term.

De Kaasboeren have also claimed the KNVB Cup on four occasions, most recently in 2012/13. They finished fifth in the Dutch top-flight last term.

European pedigree

AZ came agonisingly close to continental glory in 1981 when they lost out in the Uefa Cup final, with Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town claiming a 5-4 aggregate victory.

They were eliminated from the Europa League playoff round by Celtic last season, while they beat Rangers 1-0 in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup.

AZ were involved in last season’s Europa Conference League, bowing out at the last-16 stage at the hands of Bodo/Glimt.

The gaffer

Pascal Jansen saw his dreams of a dazzling playing career dashed by serious injury when he was a youngster, forcing him to hang up his boots and pursue a life in coaching.

Boss: Jansen.

A circuitous formative journey took him to Haarlem, Vitesse and Sparta Rotterdam, before stints in the United Arab Emirates with Al Jazira and Al Wahda.

He was handed the reins of PSV’s youth side — which plies its trade in the second tier of Dutch football — in 2015, swiftly establishing himself as a bright dugout prospect.

Jansen joined the AZ coaching staff in 2018 before being promoted to boss in 2020.

Key men

AZ are still reeling from the loss of Owen Wijndal to Ajax, with the outstanding left-back having provided 11 assists last season.

However, the club have held on to Jesper Karlsson, who has been a revelation following his arrival from Elfsborg in 2020. He notched 16 goals and 14 assists last term and will be a potent threat in the final third.

Pavilidis, right, will be one to watch.
Prolific: Pavilidis, right, will be one to watch.

Vangelis Pavlidis, AZ’s top scorer with 20 goals in 2021/22, must be shackled, while defensive rock Bruno Martins Indi is a stellar stopper.

AZ have also shelled out £3.5 million for Sassuolo forward Jens Odgaard — a not inconsequential outlay for them — so he will be one to watch.

The away day

AZ play their home matches at the AFAS Stadion in the south of Alkmaar.

The venue has a capacity 19,478 and, given it was built at a cost of £32 million in 2006, is one of the newest grounds in the Eredivisie.

AZ's home ground.
Modern: AZ’s home ground.

Tuzla City

Domestic history

Formed in 1955 as FK Sloga Simin Han, Tuzla City are in the midst of their golden era; a meteoric rise.

They were promoted to the top-flight of Bosnian football for the first time in 2018 and swiftly consolidated with 10th and fifth place finishes.

Last term, they secured second spot behind eventual champions Mostar, earning a dream crack at the Europa Conference League.

European pedigree

Tuzla City are writing their European history as we speak.

This is their maiden continental campaign and they kicked it off in style, tearing apart San Marino minnows Tre Penne 8-0 on aggregate in the first qualifying round.

It should be noted, however, that it took two injury time goals in the first leg to secure a 2-0 victory; they initially made hard work of the task.

The gaffer

Dragan Jovic, 58, started his coaching career with Travbik and Posusje before landing the top job at Mostar, winning the Bosnian cup in 2007/08 and league title in 2008/09.

Following stints at Zvijezda Gradacac, Sarajevo and Borac Banja Luka in his homeland, Jovic took the plunge and accepted the managerial role with Angolan giants Primeiro de Agosto in 2014.

He led them to three league titles and an Angolan Cup between 2014 and 2018, while reaching the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League in 2018.

A brief stint in Egypt with Ismaily followed before Jovic returned to the Bosnian Premier League with Tuzla in May.

Key men

Tuzla are without their top scorers from last term, Sulejman Krpic, whose contract expired, and Adnan Dzafic, who joined rivals Sarajevo.

However, creative midfielders Mirzad Mehanovic and Peter Misic — responsible for a combined 11 league goals last season — remain on the books and capable of carving open defences.

Semir Smailagic notched two goals in Tuzla’s comfortable win over Tre Penne and looks set to lead the line this season, seeking to fill the void left by Krpic and Dzafic.

The away day

Tuzla City ordinarily play their matches at the 7,200-capacity Tusanj City Stadium in the north-western suburbs of Tuzla.

However, their tie against Tre Penne was moved to the Stadion Grbavica in Sarajevo — 75 miles away from their usual base.

The Stadion Grbavica has an all-seater capacity of more than 13,000 and has regularly hosted international fixtures in recent years.

That will again be the venue against AZ Alkmaar and, it would be safe to surmise, remain their temporary home for the Dundee United clash, should they progress.