0320 GMT June 21, 2021
All four Iranian clubs will be heading into their final two games of the AFC Champions League (ACL) group stage, starting Monday, chasing a place in the last-16 round.
A historic campaign is on the cards for the Iranian football as it could turn out to be a clean sweep of qualification for the Persian Gulf Pro League sides, come the final day of the group phase.
Five West Zone groups’ winners as well as three best runners-up will advance to the knockouts of the Asian clubs’ elite competition.
In Group E, Persepolis, on a perfect run of four wins, is on the verge of securing a place in the next round as a draw against the second-placed UAE club Al Wahda on Monday will see Yahya Golmohammadi’s men win the group with one game to spare.
Foolad Khuzestan, third in Group D on five points, suffered a first defeat of the campaign against Saudi side Al Nassr last time out and will take on Qatari giant Al Sadd, which is second with seven points.
Javad Nekounam’s side was considered an underdog before the group matches got underway in Saudi Arabia but has been preforming beyond expectations so far.
A victory in Monday’s encounter will take the southern Iranian side back to the second spot, leaving Nekounam’s men in firm contention with qualification, with a fixture against bottom side Al Wehdat of Jordan coming in the final day of the group.
Elsewhere, Tractor, which claimed a first victory in the group on Friday, beating Iraq’s Air Force Club 1-0, is second in Group B with six points, three points clear of Monday’s opponent Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan.
A six-goal thriller saw Tractor and Pakhtakor share the points in the group opener.
A win will seal the runner-up place for Rasoul Khatibi’s side before the all-important battle against the Emirati group leader Sharjah decides the top spot.
Esteghlal, which settled for a 2-2 draw against Group C leader Al Duhail on Sunday, is second with seven points but feels Al Ahli breathing down its neck as the Saudi side beat Iraq’s Al Shorta 2-1 earlier in the day to go equal on points with the Tehran-based Blues.
A repeat of the first-day victory over Al Ahli on Tuesday will certainly boost Esteghlal’s hopes of advancing into the knockout phase as Farhad Majidi’s side will be fancied to overcome Al Shorta, which Esteghlal easily beat 3-0 earlier in the group, on the final day.