The hosts finished the regular season in eighth place, three places and 20 points behind their opponents AZ Alkmaar in fifth.
For the first time in four years, Heerenveen secured a top-half finish after beating Go Ahead Eagles 3-1 on home soil last weekend.
A brace from Sydney van Hooijdonk and a late strike from Anthony Musaba put De Superfriezen three goals in front, before Jacob Mulenga netted a consolation goal for the visitors in the closing stages.
Interim boss Ole Tobiasen will be proud to have steered his side into the top eight, considering there was a stage in the season where they were on the verge of a relegation battle.
Following the dismissal of Johnny Jansen at the end of January, Tobiasen stepped in and initially had a difficult start in the dugout, losing his first four games in charge and conceding an average of two goals per match.
However, their form has since improved and they finished the regular season with only two defeats in their final 11 league games – including five wins and four draws – which helped to push them into the top half and in with a chance of qualifying for Europe.
Victory over two legs against AZ Alkmaar will move Heerenveen one step closer to European qualification for the first time since 2009-10, when they competed in the Europa League.
While Heerenveen ended the regular season on a high, AZ Alkmaar endured a contrasting end to their campaign, winning only two of their last nine Eredivisie matches.
A run of three successive score draws was followed by a 3-1 home defeat to RKC Waalwijk on the final day of the season last weekend.
Dani de Wit cancelled out Finn Stokkers's opener on the stroke of half time, but the visitors secured all three points courtesy of strikes in the final half-hour from substitutes Jurien Gaari and Roy Kuijpers.
After finishing the season in fifth place, their lowest league position for five years, AZ boss Pascal Jansen will be keen for his side to put an end to their poor run of form with victory on Thursday.
The Cheeseheads – who were eliminated in the Europa Conference League round of 16 earlier this season – will be confident of success against Heerenveen, as they have won each of the last five meetings against them, scoring 14 goals in the process.
Van Hooijdonk's brace at the weekend is set to see him retain his place up front alongside Swedish forward Amin Sarr, while Tibor Halilovic, Thom Haye and Anas Tahiri could all start again in centre-midfield.
As for AZ Alkmaar, teenage forward Yusuf Barasi has been sidelined since December and is set to miss out again on Thursday.
Owen Wijndal and Jesper Karlsson have been a constant threat on the left flank all season, registering 22 assists combined in the Dutch top-flight, and the pair are set to continue at left-back and left-wing respectively.
Yukinari Sugawara could replace Aslak Fonn Witry at right-back, while Jordy Clasie, Fredrik Midtsjo and Dani de Wit are set to start in centre-midfield, with the latter likely to be given licence to roam further forward.
Heerenveen possible starting lineup:
Mulder; Van Beek, Dresevic, Woudenberg; Van Ewijk, Tahiri, Halilovic, Haye, Kaib; Sarr, Hooijdonk
AZ Alkmaar possible starting lineup:
Jensen; Sugawara, Hatzidiakos, Martins Indi, Wijndal; Clasie, Midtsjo; Evjen, De Wit, Karlsson; Pavlidis
We say: Heerenveen 2-2 AZ Alkmaar
AZ have had no problems finding the net despite their dip in form, while there have been goals aplenty in recent games involving Heerenveen, so an entertaining contest is expected at the Abe Lenstra Stadion.
However, with little to separate these two teams, a score draw could be on the cards, keeping the tie nicely poised heading into Sunday's second leg.
For additional data used by our team to analyse our suggested result please click here.
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