Iranian clubs will be back in Persian Gulf Pro League action after a three-week break as Esteghlal plays away to Golgohar Sirjan on Saturday, while league leader Persepolis will host Tractor on Sunday.
Golgohar is on a 15-game unbeaten run in the Iranian top flight since the 2-1 away defeat against Saturday’s opponent on March 6, and a fourth win of the campaign will see Amir Qalenoei’s men go top of the table for at least 24 hours.
Third placed Esteghlal, meanwhile, will be looking to build on a 3-1 victory over Nassaji Mazandaran at home before the international break – probably the first convincing performance by the defending champion under new Portuguese manager Ricardo Sa Pinto.
Should the two sides share the spoils, Persepolis will have the chance to extend its lead on top by a fifth successive victory of the season on Sunday.
Reds’ manager Yahya Golmohammadi will hope to have Alireza Beiranvand, Morteza Pouraliganji, Milad Sarlak, Vahid Amiri, and Mehdi Torabi in top form, as they only returned to training from international duty on Friday.
Tractor was handed a 3-0 defeat against Persepolis by the Disciplinary Committee of the Iranian Football Federation after their last encounter in the previous season in Tabriz was caught short by the referee midway through the second half in a response to home supporters throwing stones and other objects on the pitch.
Tractor got off to a slow start in the new season but consecutive wins against Aluminium Arak and San’at Naft Abadan have boosted the northwestern Iranian side’s confidence heading into the game at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.
Elsewhere, Sepahan will be after a first victory in five games when taking on Havadar in Tehran on Sunday.
Anything other than maximum points will see the Isfahan-based giant slip further off the pace, while Portuguese head coach Jose Morais will have to brace for early pressure from Sepahan faithful.
Aluminium and Malavan – both struggling in the bottom of the table – will go head to head in Arak on Saturday, with Nassaji welcoming Naft Masjed Soleyman.
Javad Nekounam’s Foolad Khuzestan faces Mes Kerman at home, and Zob Ahan will be looking to end a run of six draws in a row this season when facing Paykan in Isfahan.
San’at Naft, in Firouz Karimi’s first game in charge, will play Mes Rafsanjan in Abadan on Sunday.