The Turkish Super Lig Title Race Paradox

Turkish Super Lig

The Süper Lig Title Race Paradox

Many European leagues have been decided for weeks – if not months – but in Turkey two

teams are preparing for a final showdown. Galatasaray heralding from the swanky European

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shores of Istanbul are hoping to pip their Asian foes Fenerbahçe to an unprecedented 20th

league title and the right to wear a fourth star next season.

 

The current permutations are as follows. Galatasaray are in pole position, three points ahead

of their bitter rivals Fenerbahce with two games left to play. The Yellow-Reds take on third

placed Beşiktaş on Sunday who despite being out of the title race could still book a

Champions League spot if they finish runners up. Fenerbahçe would of course have to drop

five points from their last two games for that scenario to pan out. A victory for Beşiktaş would

also give Fenerbahçe the opportunity to move into first position by virtue of having the better

head to head record as long as they beat Başakşehir.

 

The Wealdstone Raider – aka Gordon Hill – caused a social media storm with his popular

Vine clip ‘You got no fans’. Well Başakşehir actually have no fans. Averaging 2,472

spectators per-game the Istanbul minnows are quite evidently not the most popular team in

the city. Başakşehir were a council club until two years ago – Istanbul Büyükşehir

Belediyspor. The equivalent would be Wandsworth Council FC, a football club funded by the

council playing in the Premier League.

 

Başakşehir may not have a fan-base but they have Abdullah Avcı. The newly promoted side

are just three points away from securing an unprecedented fourth placed finish.  The club without a nickname have

been branded an anti-football side, something Avcı takes exception to. “It is unfair to label us

as a defensive side, we make precise, well organised attacks with 4-5 players and create

roughly 4-5 goal scoring opportunities per game,” he recently said. Indeed Başakşehir have

proven to be cutthroat in front of goal with former Fenerbahçe and Turkish national team

veteran Semih Şentürk poaching goals upfront.

 

Fenerbahçe are under immense pressure, especially manager Ismail Kartal whose

competence has been questioned throughout the league campaign. Former manager Ersun

Yanal won the league title at a canter last season with what was essentially the same squad

bar Diego.

 

The Yellow-Navy Blues destiny is in the hands of bitter rivals Galatasaray whose fans are still

scratching their heads wondering how they are first with two games left. The Lions got rid of

Roberto Mancini in the summer, replaced him with fellow Italian Cesare Prandelli whose

disastrous Champions League run – one point from six games – was too much for the board

to stomach. Prandelli ended up being succeeded by the most unlikely of candidates Hamza

Hamzaoğlu.

 

Hamzaoğlu was Terim’s right hand man at the Turkish national side and made a name for

himself in charge of Akhisar but it was still a surprise choice. The young coach is all about

man-management, motivation and attacking flair – a mini Terim without the melodrama. The

team was in disarray at the time of his appointment, the defending still is. The Yellow-Reds

have the worst defensive record in the top four but have been firing on all cylinders upfront

with Wesley Sneijder having his most productive season since joining from Inter in January

2013.

 

“We are conceding but we score more and that’s what is important,” Hamzaoğlu said

following the 3-1 win over Ericyesspor in February. The head coach appeared to have given

up on defending but looking at the Lions last five games you may have noticed Galatasaray

have kept five consecutive clean sheets and won as many games. So what happened?

Fernando Muslera happened. The Uruguayan international has been a human shield in goal

behind a ramshackle defence that has conceded on average the highest number of shots on

goal in top four.

 

They say a week is a long time in politics, well the same applies to football. Eight days is all it

took for Slaven Bilic to go from hero to zero. Konyaspor dumped Beşiktaş out of the title race

on Monday 18 May following a 1-0 victory at the Osmanlı (Ottoman) stadium. Playing in

Ankara, in a stadium named after an empire that ironically was brought to its knees in the

very same city back in 1402 has not done Beşiktaş any favours. The Black Eagles have not

been able to play in the actual seat of Ottoman power for much of the season due to the

İnönü stadium being rebuilt.

 

Bilic obviously deserves some blame for his side spontaneously combusting over the last

three games but the Black and Whites have been footballing nomads, with an inexperienced

squad that started the season earlier due to Champions League playoff round.

Beşiktaş have already surpassed last seasons point tally by four points and were undefeated

on home soil against Premier League opposition; Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool in

Europe. Bilic did however, concede that he does not expect the board to keep him on next

season. Speaking after the Konyaspor debacle he said, “I do not expect Beşiktaş to keep me

on, we all know how these matters are handled in Turkey.” He has a point, out of the 18

Süper Lig clubs only six have the manager they started the season with.

 

The last three weeks have felt like the final rounds of a championship boxing fight.

Fenerbahçe are on their last legs, slugging it out but still possess a knockout blow while

Galatasaray are darting around like Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather avoiding getting hit while

delivering opportunist point winning counter punches. The Lions are ahead on the scorecards

but there is still everything to play for going into round 12. Let’s get ready to rumble.

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