Persepolis are aiming to become the first Iranian football team to win the AFC Champions League but they will have two difficult matches ahead.
Iranian teams Sepahan in 2007 and Zob Ahan in 2010 reached the final but both ended up losing to East Asian oppositions and now, well-prepared Persepolis, are going to make history in the prestigious competition under guidance of Branko Ivankovic.
Persepolis will meet Kashima Antlers on Saturday in an unfamiliar territory because it’s the first time the they play in Japan.
Persepolis qualified for the final with a 2-1 aggregate victory against Qatar club Al Sadd SC in the semi-finals. An important 1-0 win away from home was secured with a late Ali Alipur penalty, the Iran club holding on with a 1-1 draw at home with Siamak Nemati’s equalizer getting it done.
Elsewhere, Kashima advanced to the final with a thrilling 6-5 aggregate win against Suwon Bluewings. A 3-2 home win was followed by a 3-3 draw in South Korea. The Japanese club were 3-1 down in the second leg but goals to Daigo Nishi and Serginho gave them a famous draw to qualify for the final, the-afc.com reported.
“We play very well away too. Our vision is to keep our way (style of play) as much as possible in the first leg. This is the final and two of the best teams are playing this game. We are very proud and satisfied and it is a big pleasure to be in the final,” said Ivankovic in the pre-match news conference.
“We hope we will enjoy this game, we hope we make our fans happy with this game. We want to win the title and we have worked hard to be ready for the final. We know Kashima very well. Persepolis may not have played them before but we know them. We know their strengths, that they are very good in set-piece situations with their tall players but we will have our plans,” he added.
Persepolis striker Ali Alipour is his team’s top marksman, scoring five goals in the competition so far and his pace on the break will pose a threat to Kashima.
Also, Persepolis goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand grabbed global headlines after a superb FIFA World Cup and, as the last line of defense, will be looking to again shine on the biggest stage. In front of him is Jalal Hosseini, the veteran Persepolis captain who may view the final as his last chance of continental glory.
Persepolis have won Iran domestic league back-to-back titles and also are favorites to win the trophy for the third successive year.
They are also hunting to win Iran’s Hazfi Cup.
Persepolis, who have been banned from signing players in the last two transfer windows, are going to win triple in their best days.