The curtain will come down on a long and exhausting Persian Gulf Pro League season on Thursday.
With the title secured by Persepolis for a record-fourth consecutive time and Shahin Shahrdari Blusher already relegated, 10 sides in the 16-team table will still have something to play for, heading into the final day of the season – which kicked off on August 22, 2019.
The season would have finished in late April, had it not been for a four-month halt forced by the coronavirus outbreak.
Four teams – Esteghlal, Tractor, Sepahan, and Foolad Khuzestan – will be eyeing a top-three finish and a place in next year’s AFC Champions League.
At the other end of the table, meanwhile, six sides – Zob Ahan, Golgohar Sirjan, Saipa, Paykan, Mashinsazi Tabriz, and Pars Jonoubi Jam – will be seeking to maintain their place in next season’s top-flight football.
Second-placed Esteghlal looks set to claim the runner-up spot as Farhad Majidi’s men play away to the rock-bottom side Shahin.
The decisive match in the top-three battle, however, will probably be played in Ahvaz with the third-placed Tractor – equal on points with Esteghlal (50pts) – taking on Foolad – fifth in the table with 48 points.
A home victory might still not be enough for Javad Nekounam’s Foolad to finish in the top three as Sepahan – only in fourth place by virtue of a superior goal difference over Foolad – has a rather easier task when playing struggler Paykan.
Any result other than a victory could see Abdollah Veisi’s Paykan – fall down to the lower tier.
Paykan sits 13th before Thursday’s fixtures, leading Mashinsazi on GD and 15th-placed Pars by a single point.
The 12th-placed Saipa – unbeaten after the league resumption in June – will have its fate in its own hands against Persepolis, having a two-point advantage over Pars.
Mashinsazi – which has the best goal difference among the relegation candidates – will play at home against San’at Naft – which won’t probably have an extra motivation for the game as it has already been secured a seventh-spot finish.
Sirous Pourmousavi’s Pars – currently in the bottom two – will play at Naft Masjed Soleyman – which has only lost six all season – desperately needing a victory and will still have to wait for other results to be played out in its favor.
Zob Ahan and Golgohar Sirjan – equal on 30 points – will square off in a do-or-day battle in Isfahan.
A draw will see both sides stay in the league as they are three points clear of the relegation zone.