ANY GOALS WILL DO!

Mariupol travel to the Netherlands as they play the return leg of their Europa League qualifying tie v AZ Alkmaar. However, they won’t be playing at AZ’s home stadium.

Over the weekend, the roof of the AFAS stadium partially collapsed in high winds. Fortunately, the stadium was empty at the time and nobody was injured. This now means the game will be played at the amusingly named Cars Jeans Stadion in The Hague.

This has the possibility of affecting the Alkmaar players, unsettling them in such a key European tie. For Mariupol, it’s nothing new. Playing their home football regularly a mere 20 or so kilometres from the frontline in the war between Ukraine and Russia, Mariupol have played elsewhere on a number of occasions since the war began. Most recently, it was the first leg of this fixture, just last week.

Mariupol traveled to Amsterdam via Groningen on Monday, direct from Lviv where they drew 1-1 with Karpaty on Sunday. They’ve had a few days to settle in and should be in much better condition than they were for the home game. Mariupol spent over 10 hours travelling from the Azov Sea to Odesa on the Black Sea.

The travel and different arena didn’t look to have affected their performance too greatly on the night. For a game that was drawn 0-0, it required some seriously resolute and high pressure defending and as such reduced attacking capabilities.

They will be looking for a similarly inspiring display from veteran goalkeeper Rustam Khudzhamov to keep them in the game, whilst they aim to grab a greater foothold in the opposition’s final third through key man Vakula and his ability to link up with the players around him.

This is a big opportunity for Mariupol to reach the play offs, with the potential for a single away goal to decide the tie. With AZ in unfamiliar territory, Mariupol just need to keep themselves in this one until the latter stages to stand themselves a chance of progressing!

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