Iran will be seeking a fourth victory in fifth outings when playing away to Lebanon at the World Cup Asian qualifiers on Thursday.
A run of three successive wins came to an end for Dragan Skocic’s men against South Korea last time out in Tehran.
Iranian skipper Alireza Jahanbakhsh headed home a late equalizer – his third goal in the final group phase of the qualifiers – to cancel out Son Heung-min’s opener as the two Asian giants settled for a 1-1 draw at the Azadi Stadium.
The result kept Iran atop the Group A of the qualifiers with 10 points – two points clear of the South Koreans – and a victory in Thursday’s fixture will see Skocic’s men establish an eight-point lead over third-placed Lebanon halfway through the group fixtures.
The biggest absentee for Iran on Thursday, and then against Syria five days later, will be Porto striker Mehdi Taremi, who was left out of the squad after presumably having a falling-out with the Croatian manager.
For all the talent up front for Iran, Taremi has been a key figure to the country’s successful campaign so far, as with two goals and two assists, the 29-year-old has contributed to four out of Iran’s six goals in the group.
With the Porto man missing the two games, all eyes will be on Zenit striker Sardar Azmoun, who is yet to get off the mark in the group, while wunderkinds Mehdi Qayedi and Allahyar Sayyadmanesh could also be called into action.
Sayyadmanesh, 20, has been in fine form this season, netting eight in 19 matches across all competitions for Ukrainian top-flight side Zorya Luhansk, and will be looking to make his mark after receiving a first call-up by Skocic.
The Lebanese are on a six-year, 14-match unbeaten run at home, though Thursday’s game will be their first on home soil since a 2-1 win over Turkmenistan In 2019.
The two sides squared off during the same stage at the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, when Iran was stunned by a 1-0 defeat in Beirut before walking away with an easy 4-1 win in Tehran.