Sitting atop the Group A standings, Iran will host third-place Uzbekistan in a World Cup qualifying match at Pakhtakor Stadium on Wednesday. With a victory in the game, the Iranians can lock down a spot at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. On the other hand, avoiding a defeat is a must for the Uzbeks, as a win would serve to keep them in contention for a trip to Brazil in 2014.
Both of the football clubs are coming off wins going into the crucial matchup. Uzbekistan prevailed against Qatar by a 1-0 margin while Iran was also victorious 1-0 over South Korea.
Uzbekistan will be without veteran winger Jasur Hasanov, centreback Anzur Ismailov and striker Bahodir Nasimov due to their suspensions. However, the team will be most affected by the injuries of midfielder and skipper Timur Kapadze along with midfielder Odil Akhmedov. Youngsters Oleg Zoteev and Fozil Musaev should more than likely fill in.
Iran has also lost some depth as well with both Mojtaba Jabbari and Ali Karimi out of action. After showcasing their skills in a 6-1 victory over Tajistan last week, Milad Nouri and Ghasem Dehnavi could get the nod in their place. Mohammad Nouri is also a possibility to play.
The last time the two squads faced off against one another it was Iran that came out on top in Tashkent earlier in the year. If the outcome turns out to be similar, then the Iranians would clearly be in a stronger position to qualify as one of the two Group teams to make it to the World Cup. The next encounter is set to occur in June 2013.
CLICK HERE to watch Iran face off against Uzbekistan in a 2014 World Cup Qualifier via free live stream. Coverage of the game is set to begin at 8 p.m. IRST on Wednesday, Nov. 14.