Anzhi Makhachkala is a name that very few punters were familiar with just one year ago and many were under the impression that this is the kind of team to lay when playing in European qualifiers. Massive investments in players and infrastructure changed Anzhi completely and they are now just a match away from playing in the Europa League groups.

Match: AZ Alkmaar vs Anzhi Makhachkala

Bet: AZ Alkmaar

Odds: Pinnacle 2.20

Their opponents are AZ Alkmaar, a team that emerged in European football a few seasons ago, but since then they remained a constant presence. Unlike Anzhi, the Dutch side has entered a downwards spiral in terms of signings as they’ve brought just two new players while losing six. Simon Poulsen, Brett Holman, Niklas Moisander, Charlison Benschop, Rasmus Elm and Ragner Klavan left AZ while Danny Gorter and Viktor Elm were acquired. In these circumstances it will be difficult for Alkmaar to advance too far in Europa League, but they still have the first chance of playing in the groups of the competition.

Some things money can’t buy

Anzhi Makhachkala owners convinced Samuel Eto’o to join the club and they promised to strengthen the squad with more players of the same caliber. So far only Lacina Traore has been acquired, and a few more less gifted players have joined the Russians but no one that comes even close to Eto’o. These two players are enough to propel Makhachkala among the best teams in the domestic league, but in the absence of a solid defense they can’t expect to see their dreams fulfilled in Europe.

Most of the defenders and midfielders are Russians and although there is nothing wrong with them, Anzhi is far from being a top-class squad. Away at Alkmaar they will face a team that doesn’t hesitate to come out and attack any opponent, which means that Eto’o and Traore will be pretty much on their own. The former is no longer young and both his stamina and speed leave a lot to be desired, so counterattacks will not be as successful as the visitors expect. AZ is one of the few teams that attacks and defends with 10 players and their spirits will be buoyed by an enthusiastic crowd.

BetPal Tip:

AZ Alkmaar was outplayed in Moscow and they were lucky to lose by a single goal, but things will change dramatically in Holland. Altidore is in superb form and he will find enough spaces to explore in the opponent’s defense, and eventually will defeat Gabulov. The pressure is significant and except for Eto’o and Traore, the visiting players are not used to playing such meaningful games, so the odds of 2.20 offered by Pinnacle could generate some nice profits.