1233 GMT January 20, 2019
Kashima, which will take a 2-0 lead into the return leg at the Azadi Stadium, will first have to play Kashiwa Reysol in the J League on Tuesday, meaning the Persepolis tie on Saturday will be the club’s fourth match in 11 days, having played Cerezo Osaka on October 31, the-afc.com reported.
Fatigue is a genuine concern for Kashima's fans, who desperately want to see their team lift the AFC Champions League title for the first time.
Oiwa, however, isn't concerned about his team's mental and physical state.
"We have been dealing with a tight schedule since the start of the season and I don't think we should start using this as an excuse now. We are 90 minutes away from winning the AFC Champions League and I believe the players will be up for it," said Oiwa.
Oiwa is equally confident that his players will be mentally ready for the challenge Persepolis will surely pose in the return leg.
"The players may be physically and mentally tired now but after a couple of days of rest, they will be looking forward to the return leg.
"We know how supportive the Persepolis fans are but we have a great chance to win the AFC Champions League for the first time and my players will overcome their mental and physical fatigue and be ready for the return leg," said Oiwa.
Meanwhile, Nigerian striker Godwin Mensha spoke of Persepolis’ belief ahead of the second leg by insisting the Iranian team has defeated better sides than Kashima Antlers in the tournament.
Persepolis has twice recovered from first-leg deficits in the knockout rounds, eliminating the UAE’s Al Jazira and Qatar’s Al Duhail in dramatic fashion at Azadi Stadium.
“We have played against many good teams who are better than Kashima. I think that Al Sadd was much better, but it’s just that we conceded cheap goals [in the first leg]. We will work very hard and try to finish everything at home,” said the Nigerian.
“When we arrived [at Kashima Soccer Stadium] we felt their fans, but they now need to come and see what we have in Tehran; we expect our fans to support us in the final,” added Mensha, whose side has been inspired by capacity crowds at Azadi Stadium.