The Gaurs are currently at second place in Group E, having drawn both the matches that they have played so far in ACL 2021.
The third matchday of Group E in the AFC Champions League (ACL) 2021 will kick-off on Tuesday, April 20, with Persepolis FC taking on FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, Goa.
The game is set to begin at 10:30 pm IST and both teams are currently on an unbeaten run of two games. While Persepolis’ good form was expected, the Gaurs are punching well above their weight. They managed draws against Al-Rayyan from Qatar and UAE’s Al Wahda and are on the hunt for more points against their next opponents, who are from Iran.
Here is Khel Now’s preview of the forthcoming clash between Persepolis FC and FC Goa. Read on!
Season So Far
Persepolis are the reigning champions of the Iran Pro League. Both Persepolis and second-placed Sepahen had 41 points from 20 matches apiece, but the former had the superior goal-difference and that helped them lift the title.
In the ongoing AFC Champions League, the Iranian champions won both the matches that they have played so far. Against Al Wahda in the opening game, they won 1-0 while on Saturday, they came from behind to beat Al-Rayyan 3-1. They are hence the table-toppers in Group E right now.
After qualifying for ACL 2021 by finishing at the top of the standings in ISL 2019-20, FC Goa had to rebuild their side as several key players and then head coach Sergio Lobera left the club.
But, the Gaurs did a good job by signing Igor Angulo, Alberto Noguera, Jorge Ortiz and others, while Juan Ferrando joined up as Lobera’s replacement. The team then finished fourth in ISL 2020-21 and qualified for the playoffs, where they got eliminated by eventual winners Mumbai City FC in a penalty shootout.
Afterwards, they kicked off their first-ever ACL campaign, where they are currently on an unbeaten run of two matches. The Gaurs drew 0-0 against Al-Rayyan in their first game, before attaining the same result against Al Wahda on Saturday. The team from Goa are at second place in Group E.
Stakes at ACL 2021
The strongest team in Group E will also have the biggest burden of expectations on them this season. In the 2020 edition of the competition, the club from Iran finished as the runners-up and that should be an indication of how good they are.
This season, Persepolis would definitely look to go one better and return home with nothing less than the winners’ trophy. To do so, they first have to qualify to the knockout rounds from the group stage. The side know that very well and have started off with the perfect intent. The results also show for it, as they have taken all six points (two wins) from both the matches that they have played so far.
Against FC Goa, Persepolis would look to complete a hat-trick of wins and if they manage to do so, they will get one step closer to qualifying for the knockouts.
Although they are debutants on-paper, FC Goa have been so good that they may have already exceeded their own expectations.
Most people thought that winning a point or two would be wonderful enough for the Gaurs. However, they have already crossed that mark with four matches remaining and are looking for more points against Persepolis. But, it is easier said than done, as the Iranian club are one of the best teams in the whole competition.
That said, Juan Ferrando and Co. can play without pressure, as not much is expected from them anyway. Make no mistake, though – they are a good side and have already made India proud with their performances in Asia’s premier club football competition.
Persepolis do not have any injuries or fitness concerns at the time of writing. Hence, it is expected that their head coach Yahya Golmohammadi will have a full strength squad available for selection on Tuesday.
Jalal Hosseini, Mehdi Torabi and Shahriar Moghanlou are three names who are definitely going to be a part of the Iranian outfit’s starting XI against the Gaurs.
FC Goa’s first-choice starters are all available for selection and it will not be a surprise if Ferrando lines up an unchanged XI against Persepolis. However, there are some fitness issues among the other players, which could make the Goa bench slightly weaker than expected.
Sanson Pereira did well at left-back for the hosts in both the games so far. However, he may make way for Saviour Gama, who was the first choice in that position in the recently-concluded ISL. Ishan Pandita disappointed against Al Wahda while Devendra Murgaonkar impressed, but the former is expected to start on Tuesday as well.
The rest of the XI are no-brainer decisions – the two foreign centre-backs, the Glan Martins-Edu Bedia double-pivot, the Jorge Ortiz-Brandon Fernandes partnership in attack and so on.
Persepolis: Lak (GK); Nemati, Kanaanizadegan, Hosseini, Amiri; Pahlavan, Nourollahi, Sarlak, Torabi; Moghanlou, Alishah.
FC Goa: Dheeraj (GK); Seriton, Ivan, Donachie, Sanson; Glan, Bedia; Romario, Brandon, Ortiz; Pandita.
Man to Watch
Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem (FC Goa)
The Gaurs’ shot-stopper was one of the best performers on the pitch when Juan Ferrando’s boys faced Al Wahda on Saturday. He made several crucial saves, including this one which happened seconds before the final whistle:
Dheeraj Singh was hence one of the key players responsible for the draw against the UAE-based outfit and all eyes will be on him once again on Tuesday. Everyone knows that Persepolis are the strongest team in the group and that they have registered convincing victories in both their ACL 2021 group games so far. The Iranian side’s attacking department will come out all guns blazing against Goa and the 20-year-old will have plenty of work to do between the sticks for the hosts.
Mehdi Torabi (Persepolis)
Mehdi Torabi is widely recognized as one of the biggest stars of Iranian football. The 26-year-old has been a regular in the national team for quite a few years now and is well-known for his pace and ability to carry the ball forward.
Against FC Goa, Torabi will look to utilize his trickery on the left and move into promising scoring areas. The likes of Seriton Fernandes and Ivan Gonzalez will have to deal with the pacy winger and in doing so, they have to be constantly alert about his movements on the pitch. The Iranian played an important role in Persepolis’ comeback win against Al-Rayyan on Saturday. He will also definitely look to do more good work for his side in the forthcoming clash against the Gaurs.
The AFC Champions League 2021 Group E match between Persepolis and FC Goa is set to be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, Goa on Tuesday. Kick-off will happen at 10:30 pm IST. It will be telecast live on Star Sports 3. The game will also be streamed live on Disney+Hotstar and Jio TV.