Iran’s biggest rivals, Esteghlal and Perspolis, face off for the first time in the new season on November 23. For the first time in a long time, both clubs find themselves in crisis simultaneously and are lagging behind the current league leaders by a large margin.
Esteghlal Tehran, known as the Blues and usually one of the contenders for the Persian Gulf Pro League, are four points behind Teraktorsazi in fifth place. Their form in the past five matches could generously be described as a bust, with just one win, two draws, and two losses.
In comparison, Perspolis Tehran, or the Reds, are nine points shy of the leaders in eighth place. In a controversial move by the club’s director they have already sacked their manager, replacing former Iran captain Ali Daei with Hamid Derakhshan, another club legend who’s already spent two managerial spells there. Derakhshan’s appointment brought relative calm, and Perspolis have a 2-0-2 record under his leadership.
But poor form on both sides will not deter thousands of spectators from supporting their favorite team. Despite a recent history of stalemates that includes four straight scoreless draws, the average attendance for the Tehran Derby tops 90,000 fans and an equal number are expected to pack Azadi Stadium on Sunday. It could be argued that Esteghlal, just four points removed from the top of the table, will want a full three points more than Perspolis.
Will the Blues bring a good result to the home crowd, or will returnee Derakhshan be the spark Perspolis needs? All will be clear after the final whistle on Sunday night.