Iran play host to Iraq in World Cup qualifying on Thursday knowing that victory will secure their place at the Finals in Qatar later this year.
In sharp contrast, Iraq are focused on trying to achieve third place, a position which would provide them with a spot in a playoff tie.
Having qualified for four of the last six World Cups, Iran are certainly no strangers to the big stage, and they are currently making light work of their bid to earn a spot in Qatar.
As expected, their meeting at home to South Korea in October was a competitive affair which ended on level terms, but they have took care of business in their other five matches.
Five wins have been recorded, as well as 10 goals scored and just the one conceded, and it has left Dragan Skocic’s side within touching distance of wrapping up their target with three games to spare.
While they will have to do it without star man Sardar Azmoun, who has tested positive for coronavirus, they will expect to make light work of their next opponents.
The reverse fixture took place on matchday two with Iran running out 3-0 victors courtesy of goals from Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Mehdi Taremi and Ali Gholizadeh.
Even at that stage, Iraq faced an uphill battle to qualify, although earning a share of the spoils against South Korea was still fresh in the memory.
Since then, draws have been earned against the other nations in Group A, and it has kept Iraq within two points of third-placed United Arab Emirates.
Zeljko Petrovic’s team are clear outsiders to achieve a playoff spot, even if they could benefit from playing the weaker sides in the group during their run-in.
Although the Lions of Mesopotamia have gone 10 competitive games without success, they did beat Uganda in a friendly on January 21.
Iran World Cup Qualifying – Asia form:
Iraq World Cup Qualifying – Asia form:
We say: Iran 2-0 Iraq
While Iraq deserve respect for only losing twice in six matches in the third round, we simply cannot back against Iran. Defensively, they look a cut above the rest, and a professional performance will get the job done on Thursday.
Iraq form in all competitions: