'A tall task to overcome a 2-0 deficit'

Published on 16 maart 12, 00:00
UDINE- Gertjan Verbeek and Nick Viergever looked ahead to Thursday’s match against Udinese in the press room of Stadio Friuli on Wednesday night. They gave their views on career highlights, Maarten Martens and Antonio Di Natale: “We respect him, but don’t fear him.”

“I would obviously have liked to select my side from a full-strength squad”, replied Verbeek, when asked whether AZ will miss Martens, who did not travel with the squad to Italy, due to an upper leg injury. “But Maarten Martens is not available to play, so I prefer to focus on the players that have made the trip to Italy.”

The AZ coach does not think reaching the Europa League round of 16 is the highlight of his coaching career. “I was in charge of over 50 European games. When I took charge of sc Heerenveen, we once played in Europe after the winter break, but I’ve never come as far as this. Yet I would not call it a highlight; in fact I think it is an experience that will be beneficial to the squad.”

Defensive strategy
The Italian media wanted to know if AZ will opt for a defensive strategy in order to defend their 2-0 lead from the first leg at the AFAS Stadion. “ In Alkmaar, well, in the Netherlands as whole, we choose to try and extend the lead rather than defend it. That’s what we’re good at, while in Italy defenders are held in high esteem. We want to pull off a good result and progress to the next round.”

Tall task
“I expect Udinese will go out to put matters right in the first half”, previewed Verbeek Thursday’s game. “That’s what they did when they met PAOK. Yet it may be a tall task for them to overcome a 2-0 deficit.”

Di Natale
Antonio Di Natale, Udinese´s top scorer, who was on the bench in Alkmaar, is expected to spearhead the Italian attack from the first whistle. Verbeek: “He is a key player. He wears the captain’s armband and has been performing well for many years. But we won’t change our game plan whether Di Natale makes an appearance or not. We respect him, but don’t fear him.”

Viergever: ‘A key player’
Viergever also gave his views on the 34-year-old prolific goal scorer: “I know just as much about Di Natale as about any other striker that we meet. We can play any striker as long as we communicate the defensive call to the players. Whether I can compare him to any other striker? That’s something that’s not crossing my mind right now. I saw him in action in Alkmaar for fifteen minutes and noticed that he is indeed a key player for Udinese.”

Udinese  v AZ kicks off at 19.00 on Thursday.