Iranian giants Persepolis and Esteghlal are back in the 2019 AFC Champions League on Tuesday as both sides will be hoping to register a first victory at this year’s group stage.
Persepolis will play Qatar’s Al Sadd in Group D at Doha’s Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in a repeat of last year’s semifinal – which saw the Iranian Reds prevail with a 2-1 aggregate victory – while in Group C, Esteghlal will be hosting the UAE’s Al Ain.
Persepolis will have been disappointed with the first game result at home against Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor as Branko Ivankovic’s men had to come from behind for a 1-1 draw after Croatian striker Mario Budimir scored on his AFC Champions League debut for the Reds.
The Tehran side was also held to a 1-1 away draw with Nassaji Mazandaran on Friday as the Iranian champion edged a point clear at the top of the Persian Gulf Pro League to maintain its bid for a third successive league title.
Despite a strong domestic form of late – sitting top of the Qatar Stars League – Al Sadd got off to a poor start on the continent as it lost 2-0 to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli last week, and will be desperate to avenge last year’s defeat in the semis to stay in contention for a place in the knockouts.
Meanwhile, both Esteghlal and Al Ain will be heading into Tuesday's fixture at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on the back of first-day defeats at the hands of Qatar’s Al Duhail (3-0) and Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia (1-0), respectively.
Esteghlal, however, has been enjoying a fine domestic form as a run of five wins in six games – including a 1-0 home victory over Naft Masjed Soleiman last Friday – have seen Winfried Schäfer’s men jump up to third in the table.
Al Ain will be without captain Ismail Ahmed, who was sentoff in the previous match, and key men Mohammed Abdulrahman and Caio have both not traveled with the team to Tehran due to injuries.