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Number Seven Thousand Three Hundred and Eighty Eight - 18 September 2023
Iran Daily - Number Seven Thousand Three Hundred and Eighty Eight - 18 September 2023 - Page 6

Sepahan, Nassaji to kickstart ACL campaigns

The first day of the AFC Champions League (ACL) group stage will see Persian Gulf Pro League giant Sepahan begin its campaign away to Iraq’s Air Force Club in Group C today.
Nassaji Mazandaran will also be in action, making its debut at the Asian elite clubs competition with a visit to Pune, India, to take on Mumbai City in Group D.
Having made a clean sweep of four victories in the start of the new domestic top-flight season, Sepahan will step onto the pitch at Erbil’s Franso Hariri Stadium in top form, though the Isfahan-based club was devastated last week after being deducted four points by the Iranian federation’s Disciplinary Committee for the “wage cap violation” in the contracts of six summer signings.
Portuguese head coach Jose Morais will hope to have instrumental fullback Ramin Rezaeian available for today’s encounter after he suffered an injury while on international duty with Iran against Bulgaria.
With Saudi side Al Ittihad – inspired by French striker Karim Benzema – and AGMK FC of Uzbekistan also in the group, Sepahan knows a winning start will be crucial if Morais’s team is to progress to the knockout round.
Meanwhile, Nassaji, which was handed a maiden place in the group stage after lifting the Iranian Hazfi Cup trophy last year, has had a mixed start to the season.
Seyyed Mehdi Rahmati’s men have only managed a single victory in four outings – a 3-1 triumph against San’at Naft Abadan at home before the international break – and sit seventh in the table with five points.
Saudi giant Al Hilal, the most decorated team in the history of the competition with four titles, is the ultimate favorite to win the group – also featuring Uzbekistan’s Navbahor – and the other three teams will likely battle it out for a runner-up finish and a possible spot in the last 16.
In a memorable debut last year, Mumbai City became the first Indian team to win an AFC Champions League match en route to a second-place finish in the group, despite missing out on qualification for the next round.


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