A Mountain to Climb for Persepolis

The first leg of the 2018 AFC Champions League final was played on 3 November in Japan between Kashima Antlers and Persepolis FC of Iran.

Going into the match, supporters of Persepolis were enthusiastic about a positive result. But a 2-0 defeat to Kashima in the first leg has definitely put a dent in the plans of Persepolis.

The club based in the Iranian capital has been the feel-good story of the tournament.

But it will be extremely difficult to get past Kashima in the return leg that is scheduled to be played on 10 November at the always intimidating Azadi Stadium.

Coming back from a two-goal deficit is not impossible, but it is fair to say that Persepolis fans would be more upbeat if their beloved team would have been able to at least score a goal in the first leg because away goals are extremely vital in aggregate.

Most of the pundits and Asian football experts are favoring Persepolis to win at Azadi Stadium. Yet it is important to realize that a win by two clear goals will only get the match into extra time.

Anything less than a win by two goals will give the trophy to Kashima and a goal from the Japanese club will almost surely finish Persepolis.

Hypothetically speaking, a goal from Kashima in Tehran means that Persepolis would have to win by three goals in order to claim the 2018 AFC Champions League.

As a huge Iranian football supporter, I know it is possible for Persepolis to beat Kashima. But it will only happen if Persepolis is able to set the tone early and score a goal in the first half.

Being down 2-1 going into the second half would set the stage for an exciting finish to go with the crazy atmosphere at the Azadi Stadium.

Persepolis have their backs to the wall, but the support from their diehard supporters can cheer the Red Army to victory.

Prediction: Persepolis 2-1 Kashima Antlers

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