The Gaurs will be facing the reigning Iranian champions during their upcoming AFC Champions League campaign.

Heading into their inaugural season in the AFC Champions League, FC Goa have been put in a relatively difficult group, where arguably their biggest challenge lies in the form of reigning Iranian champions Persepolis FC. Not only are they the defending Persian Gulf Pro League (Iran Pro League) champions, but they are also runners-up of the previous ACL campaign.

With a stacked attacking line featuring some of Asia’s best talents and a stubborn defensive structure, the Red Army can often be impossible to defeat. As FC Goa gear up for a set of formidable battles, we look at exactly what the Iranian giants have to offer in the upcoming campaign.

Recent Performance

The Iranian giants have been extremely dominant over the past few seasons and sustained their success after winning the 2019/20 Iran first division title. In this campaign, after a slightly shaky start, the Red Army have picked up their performance levels in recent months and kept climbing the table.

They’re currently at the top of the Persian Gulf League table, with a single point lead over Sepahan SC (who have a game in hand). In 19 league games so far, they’ve only lost one and drawn eight – winning 10. While they might be the second-highest scorers in the league, they’ve only conceded 10 goals in 19 games – maintaining the best defensive record by a long margin.

However, Persepolis have hit a slight blip in their performances recently – drawing two of their last three league games.

About The Team

Since their inception in 1963, Persepolis have immersed themselves among the very top domestic clubs in Iranian football and soared to newer heights as the decades went by. In their decorated history, the Red Army have won 13 league titles in Iran, including four consecutive ones over the last few seasons.

Persepolis have also won the Hazfi Cup (Iranian FA Cup) on six different occasions as well as the Super Cup three times. They also won continental silverware for the first time in the 1990-91 season by liftng the Asian Cup Winners’ Cup and have reached the final of the AFC Champions League twice, but come up short both times!

The club has also given a platform to some of Iran’s very best, with Iran’s all-time top goalscorer Ali Daei having played for them as well as iconic players like Ali Karimi and Ali Parvin – who is also regarded as their best-ever player, with over 150 goals from 350+ appearances.

The Coach

Former Iran international Yahya Golmohammadi has had a decorated management career ever since starting in 2008 and taken charge of Persepolis on two different occasions. However, it’s his current stint that is proving to be most prolific, as he has helped the Red Army maintain their stronghold on the domestic scene and also succeed in Asia.

Indeed, under his reign, Persepolis won last season’s Iranian Pro League title relatively comfortably and put in a valiant effort in the ACL. Persepolis defeated sides like Qatari giants Al-Sadd as well as Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr in the knockout rounds last season, thanks to Golmohammadi’s clever tactics and excellent man-management.

He’s made Persepolis an exciting team to watch with an encouraging attacking style, but also solidified their defensive line with the Red Army keeping 10 clean-sheets in the league this season! He has a 64.29% win rate in his current stint with Persepolis and under him the Iranian giants have only lost four times in 42 games!

Players To Watch

Ahmad Nourollahi

Persepolis’ own midfield magician has arguably been their best attacking player in this campaign so far, despite playing as a central midfielder. He has scored six goals and registered two assists for them in 18 league games, being the real driving force in the middle of the park. Not only is the 28-year-old a real hustler in midfield, who can work hard defensively to help his side regain possession, he has an excellent creative side to him as well.

Nourollahi’s movement, ability to find teammates in space makes him a formidable opponent for any side. Coming in the ACL with bags of confidence, Nourollahi will be determined to maintain his good form by being Persepolis’ creative engine in midfield.

Shahriar Moghanlou                 

Shahriar Moghanlou only arrived at Persepolis last month, but it already looks like Golmohammadi is preparing him to lead the line for his side in the ACL group stages. The 26-year-old striker is an experienced figure, who also played in the Liga NOS for Santa Clara this season, before making his move back to Iran.

A bulky, formidable centre-forward who is pretty strong in aerial duels as well as hassling defenders, he could be a real nightmare for the FC Goa defenders in the group stages. While Moghanlou has only managed a single assist in a couple of appearances for Persepolis in his short stint so far, he is guaranteed to find his goalscoring touch soon and can be a real thorn to deal with because of his clinical nature in the final third.

Seyed Jalal Hosseini

While the Red Army haven’t been the most ruthless attacking side in the Iranian Pro League so far this season, they have been exceptional from a defensive standpoint. They’ve kept 10 clean-sheets and only conceded 10 goals from 19 games. Captain Seyed Jalal Hosseini has been a pivotal part of maintaining that unpenetrable defensive line.

Even three years after retiring from international competition, the 39-year-old is still putting in dominant defensive performances and nullifying the threat of pacy, unpredictable strikers with relative ease. Not only has he been bullish with his defending, but Hosseini’s also been a surprising goalscoring threat for his side – scoring four goals in the league! The Persepolis captain will be aiming to maintain his rock-solid form in the ACL.

What To Expect

Going into the group stages as heavy favourites to win the group, Perspolis will be the team to beat this season. They’ve strengthened their defensive shape to the point where it’s extremely difficult to score past them and the Red Army also play a menacing attacking style which is hard to counter.

With their quality of talent and depth in options, Persepolis should score many goals as well as keeping multiple clean-sheets and it’ll be a tough challenge for all their opponents in the group to stop them from finishing in first place.

For more updates, follow Khel Now on TwitterInstagram and join our community on Telegram.