As the start of the 2015/16 Persian Gulf Pro League approaches us, we present a team to team guide of all 16 teams participating in the upcoming campaign. The first matchday will kick off on Thursday 30th of July, as fans anticipate what could turn out to be yet another exciting season of the Iranian top division.
Continental Competition Qualification – How it works
|League Position||Continental Competition Qualification||Competition Stage||Competition Edition|
|Winners||Asian Champions League (ACL)||Group Stage||2017|
|Hazfi Cup Winners*||ACL||Group Stage||2017|
Relegation to Azadegan League:
|League Position||Passage of Relegation||Division Relegated To|
|14th||Relegation Play-Off vs. Azadegan League Play-Off Winners||Azadegan League|
|15th||Direct Relegation||Azadegan League|
|16th||Direct Relegation||Azadegan League|
Squad Rules and Regulations
Manager: Parviz Mazloumi
Last Season: 6th
Predicted position: 5th
Key Signing: Seyed Mehdi Rahmati – the return of Esteghlal’s iconic goalkeeper should see them perform better at the back and bring more confidence to their much younger backline.
Key Player: Omid Ebrahimi – the central midfielder has one of the best stats in the league in terms of goals and assists, Esteghlal will hope he can continue his good form.
Summary: After below-par performances in the 2014/15 season, big changes were imminent at the Esteghlal camp. A new manager and a host of new young players have given Esteghlal a new look for the upcoming season. They hope to return to ACL with a top 4 finish and although the possibilities are there, we believe a lack of goalscoring striker will cause their shortcoming.
Manager: Siavash Bakhtiarizadeh
Last Season: 9th (Azadegan League Group A)
Predicted Position: 16th
Key Signing: Ahmad Alenemeh – the experienced defender will be a standout player amongst Esteghlal Ahvaz’s squad. The former Foolad man, is a versatile defender and brings a lot of solidity to a team that is desperate for players of similar quality.
Key Player: Mehdi Vadadi – the striker will be hoping he can carry his goalscoring form in the new division to help his team attempt at survival in the league.
Summary: Although Esteghlal Ahvaz were relegated from the Azadegan League, they were given the right to take part in the 2015-16 edition of the Persian Gulf Pro League after Foolad Novin – the champions of Azadegan league – were deemed ineligible to take part due to being Foolad’s B side. Very weak side with little sign of strengthening for the upcoming season, new manager Siavash Bakhtiarizadeh has an impossible task in hand to keep this team in the division.
Manager: Abdollah Veisi
Last Position: 14th
Predicted Position: 15th
Key Signing: Hassan Beit Zadeh – Beit Zadeh was named as Azadegan League’s player of the season after his eye catching performances for Foolad Novin. His hunger to show his qualities on a bigger stage can be of huge benefit to Veisi’s men.
Key Player: Ruhollah Seifollahi – he is a dangerous forward but lacks the finishing touch. If he improves his end product, he can fire Esteghlal Khuzestan to survival.
Summary: Abdollah Veisi’s men survived by the skin of their teeth last season after winning the relegation/promotion play-off against Mes Kerman They’ve lost many of their key players, particularly star winger, Mehdi Momeni, who left to join Naft Tehran. They have recruited some good young players but only time can tell if they can manage to survive in the league for another season.
Manager: Dragan Skocic
Last Position: 5th
Predicted Position: 7th
Key Signing: Hossein Ebrahimi – Ebrahimi was part of the successful Naft Tehran team last season, versatile midfielder who can play in a deep or advanced role. Good replacement for Bakhtiar Rahmani.
Key Player: Esmaeil Sharifat – the winger was subject to a lot of speculation in the summer with Esteghlal very interested, Foolad did a very good job extending his contract.
Summary: Foolad endured a tough campaign last season, missed key players such as Soroush Rafiei (Conscription) and Bakhtiar Rahmani (injury). This season they are much weaker, losing Rahmani, Rafiei and Ahmad Abdollahzadeh to Tractor Sazi due to conscription, as well as the likes of Aloys Nong who has agreed a move to Naft Tehran. Skocic has a tough job to keep Foolad playing at a high level and will struggle to keep this weakened team at a respectable top half finish.
Manager: Faraz Kamalvand
Last Position: 11th
Predicted Position: 11th
Key Signing: Mehdi Kiani – former Tractor Sazi captain brings a lot of stability to a midfield that has lost many key players.
Key Player: Ayoub Kalantari – another new signing, he can dominate midfield with his passing and create many chances for his teammates in attack.
Summary: Gostaresh had a very successful campaign in their 2nd season in the Persian Gulf Pro League. Finishing 11th, well clear of danger zone as well as getting some great results along the way. Their team has been torn apart by bigger clubs, the loss of top goal scorer, Jaber Ansari, to Esteghlal will hurt them. But they’ve used the transfer window smartly, acquiring experienced players such as Mehdi Kiani, Mohammad Nosrati and Ayoub Kalantari, with the youth and energy of new players such as Reza Karimi and Amirhossein Karimi. We expect another midtable season for Gostaresh and Faraz Kamalvand.
Manager: Amir Ghalenoei
Last Position: 13th
Predicted Position: 8th
Key Signing: Mohammad Nozhati – Malavan have added some creativity to their already solid midfield, the presence of Pejman Nouri and Maziar Zare will allow Nozhati to flourish in attacking midfield or wide areas.
Key Player: Farzad Hatami – the striker was linked heavily with a move away but extended his contract following Ghalenoei’s arrival, he can fire Malavan well up the table with the right service.
Summary: Malavan miraculously survived after a great run of form in the second half of the season following their terrible first half. The club spent most of summer battling with issues off the pitch and have recently appointed a high calibre manager in Amir Ghalenoei. We expect Malavan to survive comfortably in the league and with a few quality signings, push for a top half finish.
Manager: Alireza Mansourian
Last Position: 3rd
Predicted Position: 2nd
Key Signing: Aloys Nong – The Cameroonian striker is one of the best finishers in the league and did wonders in half the season he spent at Foolad. He will add more goals to a great Naft team.
Key Player: Alireza Beiranvand – one of the biggest talents currently in the Persian Gulf Pro League. The 22 year old goalkeeper will remain as a key component in Naft Tehran’s backbone.
Continental Competition: Asian Champions League 2015 – Quarter Finals vs. Al-Ahli (UAE)
Summary: Naft have a completely different face to them than last season. The ACL quarter finalists have lost 5 key players but managed to keep hold of in-demand manager Alireza Mansourian. They have arguably had the best transfer window, making some great signings such as Cameroonian striker Aloys Nong, Iranian international Jalal Hosseini and Persepolis playmaker Payam Sadeghian. This is a team with a lot of potential and a possible an ACL Semi-final on the horizon, we expect Naft to challenge for the title again with more firepower.
Manager: Mohammad Reza Mohajerani
Last Position: 10th
Predicted Position: 13th
Key Signing: Meysam Naghizadeh – former Gostaresh midfielder, will add more solidity to Padideh as they aim to repeat last season’s success. One of Gostaresh’s best players, he was a great asset to his club as a holding midfielder.
Key Player: Igor Prahic – The Croatian defender performed well in his first season in Iranian football and having lost two of his defensive partners, he will have a bigger role in a new Padideh side that is forming this season.
Summary: Padideh made a great impression in their debut season, a top 10 finish under the guidance of Alireza Marzban. Since then, Marzban has left his role and Padideh lost some key players. His replacement, Reza Mohajerani, has no experience in the Persian Gulf Pro League and with a rather disappointing transfer window, they may find it difficult this upcoming season.
Manager: Branko Ivankovic
Last Position: 8th
Predicted Position: 4th
Key Signing: Ramin Rezaeian – one of star performers in the 2014/15 season, and boasts great assists and goals stats as a right back. He will solve Persepolis long standing full back problem.
Key Player: Mehdi Taremi – voted as league’s Striker of the Season – his goals will have a key role in his team’s success in the coming season.
Summary: Persepolis had a season to forget, 3 managerial changes and some terrible performances marked one of their poorest ever league campaigns. Ivankovic has made some key defensive acquisitions as he hopes to build his team on a solid defence. The loss of captain, Mohammad Nouri, came a bit of a shock but with the arrival of Mohsen Mosalman, he has completed his midfield. Reds’ fans will hope for a return to Champions League football and a top 4 finish may be possible, only if they perform consistently and reduce individual errors which cost them a lot last season.
Manager: Farhad Kazemi
Last Position: 12th
Predicted Position: 14th
Key Signing: Mehdi Seyed Salehi – The veteran striker is a proven goalscorer in Iranian football and his arrival will add more quality the Rah-Ahan front line.
Key Player: Bahador Abdi – the Rah-Ahan veteran has been an ever-present figure for the team and his consistent performances are what makes him a great captain. They’ll look to him to lead the team on the field in another battle for survival this season.
Summary: Finishing 12th after a great late run, they survived the drop. Spent most of summer fightinh a court case – playing a supposed ineligible player – which saw them relegated. They won the legal battle and confirmed their status in the league. No new players and lost key players such as star man, Ramin Rezaeian. Another struggling season but with the help of their talented youngsters, they will just about beat the drop.
Manager: Ali Daei
Last Position: 9th
Predicted Position: 10th
Key Signing: Reza Haghighi – potential to be one of the best holding midfielders in the league, he has had many off-field problems. Ali Daei, his former manager at Persepolis, will hope to get him under control and bring him back to his best.
Key Player: Jalaleddin Alimohammadi – the winger performed well above expectations last season and earned himself a call-up the national team, this season should see him flourish further under the guidance of Ali Daei.
Summary: Saba, like Malavan, spent most of summer dealing with issues off the pitch. As the privatisation of the club was done, Ali Daei was appointed as manager very quickly as they hope to make up for lost time in preparation. Few key players such as Roozbeh Cheshmi and Mehrdad Tahmasbi, have left the club and Daei faces a tough challenge to replace them. But Daei’s experience and Saba’s relatively solid squad, should see them lay midtable again come the end of the season.
Manager: Majid Jalali
Last Position: 7th
Predicted Position: 7th
Key Signing: Javad Nekounam – the former Iran captain, reunited with his former manager Majid Jalali, will add many qualities to Saipa. His experience and winning mentality will make Saipa much stronger.
Key Player: Ebrahim Sadeghi – The Saipa stalwart has always been a key player to this side and will carry on to do so, his experience is invaluable to such a young squad.
Summary: Jalali’s young Saipa made a lot of noise last season, progressing well in the league and were even hoping for a top 4 finish. The club hierarchy as well as Jalali, have promised even better results this season. Although we can see a lot of potential in this team, but unless they make a couple more high profile signings, we can’t see Saipa hoping for much other than a top half finish again.
Manager: Hossein Faraki
Last Position: 1st
Predicted Position: 1st
Key Signing: Habib Gordani – The left back was very in-demand and Sepahan did well to purchase him, he was a key player for Tractor Sazi last season as their loss is definitely Sepahan’s gain.
Key Player: Moharram Navidkia – the 34 year old playmaker and captain, fired his team to the title with his phenomenal performances and if he stays fit, he’ll have a huge part in this Sepahan side again this season.
Summary: Not many people gave them a chance to win the league with 5 games to go, but Faraki managed his team well and won the league against the odds. Sepahan boasts by far the best and most complete squad in every department. If they manage to keep captain, Moharram Navidkia, fit for the majority of the season, he and the powerful front 3 of Mehdi Sharifi, Mohammadreza Khalatbari and Luciano Chimba, should see them conquer the Persian Gulf Pro League once more and make a huge impact on the ACL.
Manager: Rasoul Khatibi
Last Position: 1st (Azadegan League Group B)
Predicted Position: 12th
Key Signing: Milan Jovanovic – Jovanovic had a good season with Padideh in 2014/15 campaign and he brings a lot of steel to this side at the back.
Key Player: Mohsen Delir – another new signing, Delir is a good finisher and on his day, he can cause problem for any defence in the league.
Summary: Siah Jamegan won promotion after winning Group B of Azadegan League. They have had a great summer, bringing in some experienced players and strengthening their squad. Talented young manager Rasoul Khatibi was appointed as their new head coach and they hope to give a good impression of themselves in the league. They boast a great deal of support from the Mashhadi locals, and we think that, plus their successful transfer window, should see them survive in the league.
Manager: Toni Oliveira
Last Position: 2nd
Predicted Position: 6th
Key Signing: Soroush Rafiei – One of the most exciting players in Iranian football, his skills and movements will make Tractor almost as big as a threat as they were last season.
Key Player: Saman Nariman Jahan – This is a player who has a lot of potential. He is a versatile forward who possesses great pace, good finishing and even better intelligence.
Summary: Tractor Sazi lost the title on the last day in dramatic fashion. It’s tough to say if the club has recovered from the drama on the final matchday of 2014/15 season. Although they’ve brought in some good players such as Soroush Rafiei, Bakhtiar Rahmani and Tunisian striker, Hamza Younes, the loss of league’s top goalscorer, Edinho, and Iran captain, Andranik Teymourian, will hurt them badly. With an ACL campaign also to come, it’ll be tough for the Tabriz based club to challenge on both fronts.
Manager: Yahya Golmohammadi
Last Position: 4th
Predicted Position: 3rd
Key Signing: Mohammad Nejadmehdi – At Ahdaaf, we rate this defender very highly and believe this may be one of the best signings of the season. Strong and powerful centre back who can also play as full back. Great piece of business by Zob Ahan.
Key Player: Ghasem Haddadifar – Voted as Persian Gulf Pro League’s Player of the Season, he is a player rated highly by national team manager, Carlos Queiroz. The central midfielder brings many qualities to midfield, offensively and defensively.
Summary: Zob Ahan are a very exciting team to watch. Their incredible run of form from January onwards, saw them climb to 4th and claim the Hazfi Cup along the way. Golmohammadi has built a young, energetic and powerful side and it is hard to predict how they can perform as they have the potential to achieve anything, judging on last season’s results. A top 4 finish should be regarded as a success but don’t be surprised if they make a serious challenge for the title.