Persepolis will square off against Mes Rafsanjan in the Persian Gulf Pro League at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on Monday, knowing any result other than a victory could see Iranian Reds suffer further setback in their quest for a sixth successive title.
League leader Esteghlal – yet to concede a defeat after 19 rounds of matches – will visit Nassaji Mazandaran in Mashhad, which currently plays host to the northern Iranian club’s home fixtures, and a win will extend Tehran-based Blues’ lead on their archrivals to seven points – before Persepolis takes on Mes in the late fixture of the day.
Mes, however, will not be an easy test for Yahya Golmohammadi’s men as a 1-0 victory over Aluminium Arak – a third in four outings – saw Mohammad Rabiei’s side move within a single point off third-placed Sepahan.
Persepolis was lucky to leave the pitch with a single point last time out against Mes, as a controversial spot kick by Mehdi Torabi canceled out an Aqil Ka’bi’s screamer in a one-all draw in the reverse fixture in November.
Sepahan, meanwhile, will play away to Tractor in Tabriz, with Portuguese interim coach Miguel Teixeira on the bench after Moharram Navidkia stepped down from his managerial role following a goalless draw against Zob Ahan in the Isfahan derby last Wednesday.
Navidkia’s decision was initially rejected by the club but former Sepahan skipper reaffirmed his resignation late on Friday, adding “a new manager might contribute more to the team’s progress.”
The draw against Zob Ahan meant that Sepahan has now won only one in last five matches, trailing the top by 13 points with 11 games to spare.
With the quest for a first league trophy since 2015 having all but ended in despair, Sepahan will now have to battle Mes, Gol Gohar Sirjan, Paykan, Foolad Khuzestan, and even San’at Naft Abadan for a third-spot finish and a place in next year’s AFC Champions League.
The six teams are separated by only seven points in the table.
Amir Qalenoei’s Gol Gohar will go head-to-head with Alireza Mansourian’s San’at Naft in Sirjan, with Foolad facing Havadar in Tehran.
Fifth-placed Paykan will fly to Shiraz to meet Fajr Sepasi, which sits just three points clear off the relegation zone.
Elsewhere, rock-bottom club Padideh will lock horns with Zob Ahan in Tabirz, while Naft Masjed Soleyman – second from bottom – will host Rasoul Khatibi’s Aluminium.