Eredivisie outfits Vitesse and AZ Alkmaar will lock horns at the Gelredome for the first leg of their Europa Conference League playoff final on Thursday evening.
The Arnhem-based outfit ended the regular season in sixth place, 10 points and one place behind their opponents AZ in fifth.
Vitesse headed into their playoff semi-final with Utrecht after winning only three of their final 13 games of the season, and after losing 3-1 in the first leg, their hopes of turning the tie around seemed slim.
However, goals from Million Manhoef and Sondre Tronstad secured a 2-0 second-leg win and forced the tie into extra time, before Nikolai Frederiksen scored three minutes after the interval to put Vitesse in front on aggregate.
Frederiksen was then dismissed in the closing stages of extra time after picking up a needless second yellow card, but Vitesse held on to win and progress to the playoff final.
Thomas Letsch’s side are now just two games away from securing Europa Conference League football for the second successive season, after reaching the last-16 stage earlier this term.
Success on Thursday, however, could prove challenging as they have only won two of their last eight meetings against AZ Alkmaar.
Similarly to Vitesse, AZ Alkmaar endured a disappointing run of form at the end of the regular season, winning only one of their final seven Eredivisie matches.
Their four-game winless run was then extended to five when they lost 3-2 away at Heerenveen in the first leg of their playoff semi-final last Thursday. However, they returned to winning ways on Sunday with a 2-0 home victory in the reverse fixture.
Dani de Wit and Zakaria Aboukhlal were both on the scoresheet to help the Cheeseheads win 4-3 on aggregate and progress to the playoff final.
Pascal Jansen’s men have scored in each of their last 14 away matches across all competitions, but they have failed to win any of their last six on the road during this run.
AZ have also failed to win any of their last four away meetings with Vitesse, but they did claim four points against them in the league this season – drawing 0-0 on the road before winning 3-1 on home soil – so they can take some confidence into Thursday’s clash.
Vitesse Eredivisie form:
AZ Alkmaar Eredivisie form:
We say: Vitesse 1-1 AZ Alkmaar
Both Vitesse and AZ will head into Thursday’s fixture in high spirits after coming from behind to progress on aggregate in the semi-finals.
The two teams played out a goalless draw at the Gelredome earlier this season and another draw could be on the cards on this occasion, considering there is little to separate them.