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Sepahan - Esteghlal Preview: All Iranian affair provides Round of 16 highlight
The newly-crowned Iranian champions play host to the Tehran giants in a last 16 clash which has captured the imagination of the public in the West Asian nation
By Ben Somerford & Pejman Rahbar
Jafari, Hosseini, Bengar, Ashjari
Ebrahimi, Karimian, Januario, Navidkia
Sukaj, Bruno Cesar
Heydari, Montazeri, Omranzadeh, Hosseini
Zandi, Teymourian, Jabbari, Samuel
Sepahan clinched top spot in Group C last week with a 2-1 victory over Al Ahli with central defender Mohsen Bengar getting forward and popping up a late winner, having previously secured their qualification for the final 16. Coach Zlatko Kranjcar has little need to change the line-up of the Iranian champions although Hadi Jafari went off in the first-half against Al Ahli and is a doubt for this match. Brazilian Bruno Cesar and Xhevahir Sukaj have proved a handful for defences in this season's ACL and they'll be paired up front.
Esteghlal will welcome back a host of key players who miss their 2-0 win over Nasaf Qarshi due to suspension including Andranik Teymourian, Ali Hamoodi and Hanif Omranzadeh. However they will be without veteran full-back Mehdi Amirabadi after he was sent off against the Uzbek side. Teymourian should slot straight back into the midfield line-up, which will be led by Mojtaba Jabbari who scored from the spot against Nasaf.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Sepahan were crowned 2011-12 Iranian champions 10 days ago, edging out Tractor Sazi and third-placed Esteghlal by one point. It was the Isfahan club's third title in a row.
- In these two clubs' meetings during the 2011-12 league season, both games ended 1-1.
- Sepahan were knocked out of last season's ACL after fielding an ineligible player in their 2-1 quarter-final win over eventual champions Al Sadd. The error meant they were handed a 3-0 defeat and, despite a 1-0 second leg victory, bowed out.
- Sepahan striker Bruno Cesar is one of this season's topscorers in the ACL, with four strikes, while Esteghlal's Arash Borhani (pictured) has three goals.
- Esteghlal are seven-time Iranian champions and six-time Hazfi Cup winners, while they twice won the old Asian Club Championship, in 1970 and 1991.
- The Tehran giants haven't qualified beyond the last 16 since reaching the semi-finals of the 2001-02 ACL, while Sepahan lost 2007's decider to Urawa Reds 3-1 on aggregate.
- In 2007's ACL, Esteghlal were not allowed to compete after submitting their player list after deadline.
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Top 3 Predictions
Sepahan 1-2 Esteghlal Tehran
- 26.13 %
Sepahan 2-1 Esteghlal Tehran
- 17.67 %
Sepahan 0-2 Esteghlal Tehran
- 9.99 %
|Iran - Premier League (IRN1)||Apr 15, 2013||Esteghlal Tehran 1 - Sepahan 1|
|Iran - Premier League (IRN1)||Nov 18, 2012||Sepahan 0 - Esteghlal Tehran 1|
|Asian Champions League (ACL)||May 22, 2012||Sepahan 2 - Esteghlal Tehran 0|
|May 10, 2013||Sepahan 2 - Aluminium Hormozgan FC 2||IRN1|
|Apr 30, 2013||Sepahan 3 - Al Gharafa 1||ACL|
|Apr 23, 2013||Al Nasr SC 1 - Sepahan 2||ACL|
|Apr 19, 2013||Damash Gilan 2 - Sepahan 1||IRN1|
|Apr 15, 2013||Esteghlal Tehran 1 - Sepahan 1||IRN1|
|Returns:||Sepahan £18.30||Sign up with bet365 for a free bet up to £200|
|Returns:||Draw £460.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|Returns:||Esteghlal £710.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|-||Mehdi Jafarpour Sorkhi||Midfielder|
|-||Reza Mohammad Nasehi||Midfielder|
|1||Seyed Mahdi Rahmati||Goalkeeper|
|-||Hadi Zarrin Saed||Goalkeeper|
|-||Hamid Toroghi Azizzadeh||Midfielder|
The Brazilian frontman joined Sepahan in January and proved a huge hit at the club after his arrival, helping them overcome a slow start and lift the Iranian title. He's already scored four goals in this season's ACL and looks a handful for most defences.
The classy attacking midfielder is the Blues' big hope for this game, as if he can assert himself on the contest they can win. The Iran international is the driving force of his side's attacking thrusts but he has that bit of quality to beat defenders and unleash a long-range shot too.
The Iranian champions proved themselves to be a top-class outfit during the league season and they should be able to translate that form in the ACL, with home ground advantage on their side, along with the presence of dangerous Brazilian striker Bruno Cesar.
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed