Wow, what a week! That is to say the least about this, a new website, a whole new project and its starting with a bang. Combining all of our websites into one place to cover the whole of Asia and what it has to offer in footballing terms will be a great journey, one we are hoping you will join us for!
I will be taking you through the ups and downs of Central Asia with our main focus looking at the leagues in; Afghanistan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan!
Champions take a break in Iran
With only one week left, I thought it would be best to concentrate on the top and bottom of the Persian Gulf Pro League over in Iran.
Many could forgive Persepolis for slowing down after being confirmed as champions, but after having lost only once in their first 24 matches, they’ve lost 3 in their last five. They have all been to the three teams directly below them too. With only two AFC Champions League places up for grabs this is where it gets interesting.
Three teams are left in the hunt for those two spots with one point separating all three. In prime position are second placed, Zob Ahan. They probably have the easiest task of all three, travelling to already relegated Naft Tehran knowing a win will confirm their qualification spot.
Both Esteghal FC and Saipa are occupying 51 points in the league with the latter having the worst goal difference between the two. Saipa also have the harder game on the final day, no doubts about that! They travel to 5th placed Peykan knowing anything less than a win will see them gain third spot.
The relegation picture has well and truly been sorted for weeks. Neft Tehran and Meshki Pooshan haven’t gained even a single point for over month, knowing their fate is sealed. They do at-least have the chance to play at home on the final day and try to go out with a bang.
The Bottom looks Bleak in Kyrgyzstan
Only four weeks into the Top Liga over in Kyrgyzstan and things already are not going very well for two teams in particular. Both Kara Balta and Academiy Futbola have lost every single game they have played in this campaign.
The good news for both those teams is a chance of redemption in round five! They luckily come up against each other with a chance for both sides to get their season up and running.
Getting off to a good start is always crucial in any league and the pace setters early on here are Alay Osh. They are averaging nearly three goals a game and have already been involved in the game of the season, they beat Kara Balta 5-6 in round two!
Hot on their heels are Dordoi Bishkek, who are also unbeaten and boast a much tougher defence, keeping two clean sheets already. (Look out for their clash with Alay Osh in a couple of weeks).
Although it is early days in the Top Liga, stick around on this review in the coming weeks as it starts to get interesting at the top and bottom here!
Mean Defence at the Top, Hopeless Attack at the Bottom
Tajikistan’s Vysshaya Liga (Take credit if you can pronounce that one) is in the early stages as well, with six games being played by most teams.
Istiqlol Dushanbe have played a game less with only five and still occupy top spot. Their secret for success lays at the back, having only conceded twice, they are the leagues only unbeaten side and will certainly be favourites for the AFC Cup spot. Their game in hand is in early May and is also against bottom side Barqi Tojik.
Lets stick with Barqi Tojik and their contrasting fortunes. The only team in the league to yet pick up a victory with a single point. Their problem? Look no further. Call them Tajikistan’s Crystal Palace maybe? They haven’t scored a goal in their first five outings, I’m no manager but I think some things may have to be tweaked. Not everything is gloomy though as they actually boast the second best defensive record in the whole division, strange.
Credit at the top in Turkmenistan
With their being no relegation’s in Turkmenistan, I thought I would open this review segment talking about the race for the AFC Cup spot and the teams hoping to get that.
The Yokary Liga is simple, the only thing up for grabs is top spot, nothing else! Joint top so far are Ahal and Merw, both on 11 points. Ahal are unbeaten and have played two games less.
Third place Alytn Asyr are realistically bigger challengers to Ahal than Merw and have also played only five games compared to Merw’s seven. What sets Ahal apart from third place is the fact they have already met.
In round two, the two sides were put together with Ahal picking up an impressive away victory, winning 1-0. We can not just leave the review with those three sides though! Only one point separates first and fifth, the only problem is, is that the games are scattered everywhere, some have played seven and others are at five or six.
It might take a few weeks for this one to sort itself out.
Reigning Champions Struggle in Opening Weeks
Over to Uzbekistan now and as you can see in the heading, it hasn’t been pleasant reading for Lok Tashkent fans. After winning the title in back to back seasons over the past two years, many were hoping for a third on the bounce, that might have been lost in the post meant for the actual squad.
They are currently eighth in the Super league and have lost three games in their first seven, to put that into context for you, they only lost four times the whole of last season!
In round six, the top five played the bottom five of the league. No surprises there then as every side in the top five picked up three points. That meant a gap has started to form and it isn’t pretty reading for certain teams occupying the bottom spots.
Currently top are Bunyodkor, having won their last four games they were rewarded with top spot on 16 points. The top two might be somewhat deceiving so far though! Both Bunyodkor and Pakhtakor both have five wins, four of those have come against bottom five teams, meaning their upcoming fixtures are both vitally important and tough.
Third place Buxoro might be best placed so far. Having played both of the top two, losing one and winning one, they have some favourable fixtures upcoming and could be higher up the next time we speak!