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2018 World Cup team preview: Iran

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Getting to know Iran: Entering their fifth World Cup as consecutive qualifiers for the first time in its history, Iran will be hoping for another first.

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This one would be a shock, as Iran is aiming to escape a Group B with favorites Spain, EURO champions Portugal, and a Morocco side viewed to be the best in Africa.

They won’t be shrinking violets, having beaten Algeria and Panama this season while also boasting away draws against South Korea and Russia.

For more history on Iran, click here.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

What group are they in? B

Game schedule – Group B – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Friday, June 15: Morocco vs. Iran, St Petersburg 11 a.m. ET
Wednesday, June 20: Iran vs. Spain, Kazan 2 p.m. ET
Monday, June 25: Iran vs. Portugal, Saransk 2 p.m. ET

Projected lineup (4-2-3-1) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Beiranvand —–

Rezaeian — Pouraliganji — Hosseini — Mohammadi

Karimi — Ezatolahi

Jahanbakhsh—-Shojaei —- Taremi


Star player: Sardar Azmoun — The 23-year-old Rubin Kazan striker has been nothing short of prolific for Team Melli, scoring 23 times in 32 caps. He’s been pretty good in the Russian Premier League as well, spending time with Rubin Kazan and Rostov.

Manager: Carlos Queiroz – He’s had some big jobs, you know. The former Manchester United assistant under Sir Alex Ferguson also led Portugal, Real Madrid, and Sporting CP.

Secret weapon: Alireza Jahanbakhsh — Twenty-one goals and 12 assists, including hat tricks in two of his final three league games: Yep, AZ Alkmaar’s Jahanbakhsh has done just fine for himself in the Eredivisie. Who scored more? No one.

Prediction: Out in the group stage, but not without giving a scare or two to their group mates.

Top stats of the 2017/18 Premier League season

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We love stats. We love the Premier League.

[ MORE: PL grades for all 20 clubs ]

So, let’s use stats to breakdown the 2017/18 campaign.

Via our friends at Opta, here’s a look at some of the most intriguing stats of the 2017/18 season.

Man City’s brilliance

  • Man City won 32 matches, the most in a single Premier League season, breaking the record which had been held by Chelsea, who won 30 in 2016-17 – it is also a record in top-flight history.
  • Even including when points totals are altered to three for a win, Man City became the first team to win 100 points in a top-flight season.
  • Man City won 16 away league matches, a joint top-flight record in a single season along with Spurs in 1960-61.
  • Man City won the title with five games remaining, equalling the top-flight record set by Man Utd in 1907-08 and 2000-01 and Everton in 1984-85.
  • Manchester City trailed for just 153 minutes in Premier League matches this season – the fewest by a side in a single campaign.
  • Manchester City scored 106 goals in the Premier League this season; a record in a single Premier League season. The last top-flight side to score more in a single season were Tottenham (111) in 1962-63.
  • Between August and December 2017, Manchester City broke the record for most consecutive top-flight wins, winning 18 in a row and eclipsing the record set by Arsenal between February and August 2002 (14 wins in a row).

Surprising stats

  • All three newly promoted clubs (Brighton, Huddersfield and Newcastle) avoided relegation, only the third time this had happened in Premier League history, along with the 2001-02 and 2011-12 seasons.
  • Five different players recorded 10+ goals and 10+ assists in the Premier League this season (Salah, Eriksen, Sane, Sterling and Mahrez) – a record in a 38-game season.
  • This season saw the best shot conversion rate of any Premier League season since 2003-04 (10.95%), with 1018 goals scored from 9297 shots.
  • There were 78 Premier League wins by three or more goals this season – the most in an season in the history of the competition.
  • Spurs also finished as the highest placed London team in the top-flight for the first time since the 1994-95 season, when they finished seventh and above six other London sides.
  • Spurs finished above Arsenal in consecutive seasons for the first time since doing so in 1981-82 and 1982-83.
  • Jamie Vardy ended on the losing side in nine matches he scored in this season – a new Premier League record in a season.
  • Kevin De Bruyne set a new Premier League record for matches won by a player in a season, ending on the winning side in 31 different games.
  • Crystal Palace played nine Premier League games without Wilfried Zaha this season and lost all nine matches.
  • Despite only scoring 10 Premier League goals this season, Chris Wood earned his side Burnley 12 points this season – only Mo Salah (16) and Harry Kane (22) won more points via their goals.
  • Frank De Boer became the first permanent manager in Premier League history to not see his team score a single goal during his reign (four games, zero goals). Frank de Boer’s tenure as Crystal Palace manager was the shortest in terms of matches managed in the Premier League by a permanent appointment (four games).
  • Liverpool’s 0-5 defeat at Manchester City in September 2017 was the joint-biggest margin of defeat for Jurgen Klopp as a manager, level with Mainz 1-6 Werder Bremen (Oct 2006).
  • Darren Moore won more points in his six league games in charge of West Brom this season (11) than both Alan Pardew did in his 18 (8) and Tony Pulis did in his 12 (10) for the Baggies.

Harry Kane’s magic

  • Harry Kane scored 13 goals in September 2017 for club and country in all competitions – his best ever month as a professional footballer. This also equalled the tally of goals that both Lionel Messi (13 in March 2012) and Cristiano Ronaldo (13 in October 2010) have scored in a single month during their career.
  • Harry Kane’s record of not scoring a single Premier League goal in the month of August continued in 2017. His record in the month is now 13 games, 898 minutes and 44 shots without a single goal.
  • Kane became the first Spurs player to score 100 Premier League goals, a tally he reached in just 141 appearances – only Alan Shearer scored 100 in fewer games (124).
  • Kane scored 39 Premier League goals in 2017, breaking the record for a calendar year in the Premier League previously held by Alan Shearer in 1995 (36).

Relegation focus

  • Crystal Palace lost their first seven league games of the season without scoring, an English league record.
  • Crystal Palace became the first top-flight team since Liverpool in 1899-1900 to lose their first seven league matches in a season and avoid relegation.
  • Newcastle United finished 10th – the highest position by a newly-promoted club since West Ham also finished 10th in 2012-13.
  • West Brom were relegated from the top-flight for the 10th time – only fellow Midlands clubs Leicester (11) and Birmingham (12) have been relegated more often.
  • It was West Brom’s fourth Premier League relegation (also 2002-03, 2005-06 and 2008-09), with no side relegated more often (Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough, Norwich City and Sunderland also four relegations).
  • Stoke City suffered their seventh top-flight relegation and first since the 1984-85 campaign, when they went down having accrued just 17 points.
  • Stoke’s relegation was the first in any division for 20 years, when they were relegated from the second tier in 1997-98 along with Reading and Manchester City.

Mohamed Salah central

  • Mohamed Salah scored more goals in his debut season for Liverpool than any other player in their entire history (44).
  • Salah also broke the record for most left-footed goals in a Premier League season, netting 25 goals.
  • Salah scored 32 goals in the Premier League, the most in a 38-game season.
  • Salah scored against 17 different Premier League opponents this season – no player has ever scored against more in a single campaign.
  • Against Watford in March, Salah scored four goals from four shots – since 2003-04, he is only the second player to achieve this in a Premier League match after Andrey Arshavin against Liverpool in April 2009.

Pep Guardiola‘s domination

  • Pep Guardiola has won the top-flight league title in seven of his nine seasons as a manager, with the only exceptions being 2011-12 at Barcelona and 2016-17 at Manchester City.
  • Pep Guardiola secured his best points tally in a single league season as a manager (100); surpassing 99 points with Barcelona in 2009-10.
  • Pep Guardiola became the first Spaniard to win the English top-flight – he has won the top-flight in seven of his nine seasons as a manager, failing only in 2011-12 at Barcelona and last season with Man City.
  • Manchester City ended 19 points ahead of 2nd placed side Manchester United – the Premier League record points gap between 1st and 2nd place at the end of a season, overtaking a gap of 18 points by Manchester United in 1999-00.

Farewell, Arsene Wenger

  • Arsene Wenger broke the record for most Premier League games managed, eclipsing Sir Alex Ferguson’s haul of 810 games on New Year’s Eve against Crystal Palace (currently on 828).
  • Arsene Wenger has now beaten 46 different opponents in the Premier League, more than any other manager (Alex Ferguson, 44).
  • Wenger’s victory at the John Smith’s Stadium was the 48th different ground he had won at in the Premier League, more than any other manager.
  • Arsenal finished outside the top five in the Premier League for the first time 1994-95, when they finished 12th.

Manchester United: Sir Alex Ferguson no longer needs intensive care

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Manchester United has released a statement on the improving condition of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who had been in intensive care with a brain hemorrhage since the weekend.

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Rarely have two long sentences read so well to fans of Manchester United and soccer in general.

Here’s the full statement on Ferguson, 76, from ManUtd.com:

Sir Alex Ferguson no longer needs intensive care and will continue rehabilitation as an inpatient.

His family have been overwhelmed by the level of support and good wishes but continue to request privacy as this will be vital during this next stage of recovery.

Get well soon, Sir Alex.

Transcript + Video: Wenger’s goodbye to the Emirates

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Arsene Wenger was saluted at the Emirates Stadium after his final home match as Arsenal boss, flanked by giant cut out words, “Merci Arsene.”

[ RECAP: Arsenal 5-0 Burnley ]

As supporters sang his name and his players gave him a guard of honor, Wenger took to the microphone.

A classy custodian of the game, Wenger began by offering hopeful words to longtime rival Sir Alex Ferguson, who is in intensive care following a brain hemmorhage.

“I would like to wish my fellow manager Ferguson well and very quickly.

“Thank you all very well for having me for such a long time. I know that’s not easy but above all I am like you. I’m an Arsenal fan. That means this is not just coaching. It’s a way of life. It is caring about the beautiful, about the values that we cherish, and as well that something that goes through all our bodies, in every cell of our bodies, we care, we worry, we are desperate but when you come here, our dreams we realize.

“And I would like as well to thank everybody at the club who makes this club so special. And I would invite you to push these players and staff. For me this group of players has special quality, not only on the pitch but off the pitch. Please follow this team and support them next season because they deserve it.

“I would like to finish by one simple word. I will miss you. Thank you all for being such an important of my life and hope to see you soon. Well done. Bye bye.”

Sir Alex Ferguson suffers brain hemorrhage

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Legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson has suffered a brain hemorrhage, the club have confirmed.

Reports on Saturday night claimed that the former Manchester United manager, 76, was in critical condition in hospital.

Manchester United released the following statement on Sir Alex Ferguson’s condition.

“Sir Alex Ferguson has undergone emergency surgery today for a brain hemorrhage. The procedure has gone very well but he needs a period of intensive care to optimize his recovery. His family request privacy in this matter.”

Ferguson is the most successful manager in Premier League and United’s history, with the Scotsman winning 38 trophies in his 26 years in charge of the Red Devils from 1986 to 2013.

He won 13 Premier League titles and two UEFA Champions League trophies.

Fergie was in the public eye last weekend as he presented his former managerial rival, and now good friend, Arsene Wenger, with an award on the pitch at Old Trafford ahead of Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Arsenal.

The entire soccer world will be waiting anxiously for an update on the condition of one of the greatest, if not the greatest, managers of all-time.