Young Zobahan will be ready for Al Ittihad, says Mansourian

Published on: 11 July 2019

Isfahan: Zobahan FC head coach Alireza Mansourian expects a tough challenge but is confident the Islamic Republic of Iran side will overcome Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad in the 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16.

Zobahan, who are in pre-season training, will face Al Ittihad on August 5 and 13 and Mansourian said his players are working hard to ensure they will be ready.

It will be a changed Zobahan side from the one that played in the 2018 AFC Champions League with several players having departed and new faces brought in.

“We have been focusing on fitness and strength training. We are working very hard to be in perfect condition for the match against Al Ittihad,” said Mansourian.

Neither team would have kicked off their 2019-20 domestic campaign ahead of the 2019 AFC Champions League tie and Mansourian said this had made pre-season training even more crucial.

Mansourian, who was the Iranian U23 boss in 2011, said several friendlies and training camps have been lined up to hone the competitive edge of his team. 

“We do have a lot of friendly matches planned, and have six mini-camps in Isfahan.

“We have invited other teams to come to Isfahan. Our last mini-camp will be held in southern Iran, with weather similar to Dubai and Doha.”

The Round of 16 tie will be played in neutral venues with the first leg in Dubai.

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Zobahan are desperate to prolong their 2019 AFC Champions League journey after becoming the only Iranian club to advance to the knockout stage, emerging Group A winners with a record of three wins and three draws.

Their domestic campaign, however, ended with them sixth in the Iran Pro League and out of the 2020 AFC Champions League.

Mansourian admitted that Al Ittihad - who finished as Group B runners-up - will be a tough challenge but said he is confident of Zobahan’s chances. 

“I know and have analysed the Al Ittihad team, and have seen all the matches of last season (both in the Saudi Pro League and AFC Champions League).

“We will have almost a new team for the Round of 16 as many players from the previous Champions League season are no longer with us.

“We will be competing in the AFC Champions League with a much younger team. The players lack experience but are fighters, and we have worked more on their mental and emotional preparation.

“Certainly we will not have an easy match but neither will Al lttihad.”