Foolad Mobarakeh Sepahan, Esteghlal, Tractorsazi Tabriz and Saba Qom are the four Iranian clubs to take part in AFC Champions League. Saba Qom will be representing Iran in Play-offs stage alongside five other clubs from UAE, Uzbekistan, Australia and Thailand while the other clubs join ACL in Group stage.
The latest negotiations between officials of Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the authorities of AFC secured Iran’s quote for AFC Champions League 2013.
Foolad Mobarakeh Sepahan continued their reign as Iranian league champions last season when they claimed their third straight title and fourth overall by finishing a point ahead of runners-up Traktorsazi Tabriz and third-placed Esteghlal. The Esfahan club were the first Iranian side to reach the AFC Champions League final in 2007 but they lost 3-1 on aggregate to Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan. They reached the quarter-finals in 2012 but lost 4-1 on aggregate to eventual runners-up Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia.
With two victories in the Asian Club Championship in 1971 and 1991 as well as runner-up finishes in 1992 and 1999, Esteghlal are Iran’s most successful club on the continental stage. However, their best performances so far in the AFC Champions League have been round of 16 appearances in 2010 and 2012, when they lost 2-0 to league rivals Sepahan. They beat Shahin Bushehr on penalties after a 0-0 draw to win the Hazfi Cup for the sixth time in 2012.
Based in Tabriz in East Azerbaijan province, Tractorsazi have established themselves as one of the leading clubs in Iran since winning promotion back to the top flight in 2009. They just missed out on a spot in the AFC Champions League when they finished fifth in the league in 2011 but they improved last season and finished just a point behind champions Sepahan in second place, their highest ever league position.
Established in Tehran in 2002, Saba Battery enjoyed success during their early years, earning promotion as second division champions in 2004 and winning the Hazfi Cup a year later. They enjoyed their highest league finish of third in 2008 but due to low attendances, they moved to the city of Qom that year and changed their name to Saba Qom. They played in the AFC Champions League in 2006 and 2009 but went out at the group stage both times.