(IranSportsPress.com | the-afc)- Iran giants Persepolis narrowly missed winning the 2015-16 Iran Pro League title when they were pipped to the post on goal difference by Esteghlal Khouzestan. However, their second-place finish ensured a return to the continental stage after missing out last year. Two years ago the Tehran-based club equaled their best ever performance at the AFC Champions League when they advanced to the Round of 16 before being eliminated by two-time Asian champions Al Hilal. The nine-time Iranian champions also reached the last 16 in 2012 and 2009, while their three other appearances have resulted in Group Stage exits.
Iran international striker Mehdi Taremi finished as the Iran Pro League’s top scorer in the 2015-16 season and he is again amongst the goals this season as Persepolis chase their first league championship since 2008. Experienced captain Jalal Hosseini boasts more than 100 caps for Iran and after signing from city rivals Naft Tehran has provided solidity at the back. Vahid Amiri was another international who moved from Naft, and the goalscoring midfielder twice found the back of the net on his previous AFC Champions League appearance in 2015.
Coach: Branko Ivankovic
Much-travelled Croatian Branko Ivankovic took over the Persepolis reins in 2015 having previously managed in his homeland, Germany, China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In 2001 he assumed the Iran assistant coach position and a year later led the country’s U23 team to glory at the Asian Games. That success earned Ivankovic a shot as national team coach and the Croat led the Iranians to third place at the 2004 AFC Asian Cup as well as guiding them to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
How They Qualified: Iran Pro League Runners-up
Stadium: Azadi Stadium, Tehran (capacity 100,000)
Iran Pro League (9): 2008, 2002, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1996, 1976, 1974, 1972
Hazfi Cup (5): 2011, 2010, 1999, 1991, 1988
AFC Champions League: Round of 16 2015, 2012, 2009; Group Stage 2011, 2003
Asian Cup Winners’ Cup (1): Winner 1991; Runners-up 1993