Minerva to make maiden continental foray, play Saipa of Iran in AFC Champions League prelims

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11 Feb 2019, 17:00 IST

Tehran, Feb 11 (PTI) Woefully out of kinds within the home I-League season, Minerva Punjab FC will make their maiden continental foray after they tackle Iranian aspect Saipa FC in a preliminary spherical match of the AFC Champions League right here on Tuesday.

Minerva, who bought the prospect to play on this preliminary stage of Asia’s elite membership competitors as 2017-18 I-League winners, have been struggling entire of this home season with simply three wins from 16 matches whereas dropping eight video games.

They’re ninth within the 11-team I-League standings and it’ll require a vastly improved present on the Shahr-e Qods Stadium close to right here in the event that they need to advance additional within the continental event.

Saipa are taking part in the continent’s premier membership competitors for less than the second time. Their earlier look got here in 2008 after they reached the quarter-finals the place they misplaced over two legs to FC Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan.

To the nice fortune of Minerva, the Saipa aspect have additionally not been precisely doing nicely within the Iranian high division membership competitors, the Persian Gulf Professional League. They’re at the moment at 10th spot out of 16 groups with simply 4 wins from 16 matches.

This Tehran membership, owned by an Iranian car manufacturing firm, final received the nation’s high division title in 2006-07 and since then have been a mid-table finisher until their fourth place outing in 2017-18.

Like Minerva within the Indian context, Saipa is thought to have among the best youth academies in Iranian soccer and commonly promotes academy gamers to the primary crew.

The membership is at the moment coach by Iranian legend Ali Daei who’s the all-time highest objective scorer within the historical past of worldwide soccer with 109 strikes from 149 matches from 1993 to 2006. He has coached Saipa earlier additionally (2006-08) and has been on the helm of affairs since final season.

Saipa don’t boast of Iranian worldwide gamers and there is just one foreigner within the squad, Ghanaian worldwide defender Samuel Sarfo.

If Minerva win on Tuesday, they’ll face Qatari aspect Al Rayyan SC within the play-off match in Doha on February 19. In the event that they lose, they nonetheless have an automated berth within the AFC Cup, the second tier continental membership competitors

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