Both Manchester United and AZ are through to the last 32, and Kevin Hatchard expects an exciting battle for top spot...
Manchester United v AZ Thursday 12 December, 20:00 Live on BT Sport
United looking to maintain the feelgood factor
Dynamics can change quickly in football, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is enjoying a rare high as Manchester United boss. After securing a home win against his predecessor Jose Mourinho and Tottenham, the Red Devils secured a superb Manchester derby win at City. United have moved to within five points of the top four, and are now trading at 5.10 in the Top 4 Finish market.
Despite their embarrassing defeat at Astana on Matchday Five (they fielded their youngest ever line-up at senior level), United now have the chance to secure top spot in the group. If they win or draw, they'll finish first and potentially secure an easier draw in the last 32.
Solskjaer has some big decisions to make in terms of personnel. Youngsters Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams were left out of U-23 duty, and so it seems likely they will start, but it would be a surprise to see a line-up as callow as the one that was fielded in Kazakhstan.
AZ eyeing Old Trafford win
It's typically bold of AZ coach Arne Slot to say that his young side will push hard for a win at Old Trafford. Since being promoted from within to the top job in Alkmaar, Slot has championed both the use of young players and the employment of an enterprising style. AZ are only three points adrift of mighty Ajax in the title race in the Netherlands, and they have qualified for the last 32 of this competition with room to spare.
AZ remain unbeaten in the Europa League. They drew 0-0 at home to United, thrashed Astana 5-0 and 6-0 and played out two entertaining draws against Partizan. Four of their five group-stage matches have comfortably cleared the 2.5 goals line, and most of their Eredivisie matches go the same way. An Over 2.5 Goals wager has landed in 10 of their 16 league outings.
One of AZ's attacking tyros is unavailable, as Myron Boadu is suspended. Ferdy Druijf is likely to deputise, with wide players Calvin Stengs and Oussama Idrissi posing a threat (they have scored 13 league goals between them.)
United too short at odds-on
Despite their recent surge, I can't get excited about backing United to win at 1.84 here. It's difficult to know how strong a line-up Solskjaer will select, and AZ haven't lost in any competition since mid-October. I'll look elsewhere.
AZ's style should spark a shootout
AZ have nothing to lose here, and only a win will see hem claim top spot in the group. The Dutch side have rattled in 32 goals in their last 10 matches, and nine of those encounters featured at least three goals.
United have seen nine of their last 10 games feature at least three goals, so backing Over 2.5 Goals the way I'm heading at 1.91.
Young guns worth considering
The exciting Mason Greenwood has spearheaded United's attack in this competition, and he is once again trading at well above evens. You can back him to score at any time at 2.60.
On the AZ side of things, Stengs is priced at [5.6], while Idrissi is trading at [5.0]. I'd seriously consider sticking half a point on each of them to find the net.