Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe ready for historic Super League final

Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe ready for historic Super League final

ISTANBUL
Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe ready for historic Super League final

DAILY NEWS photos, Emrah GÜREL

Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe will play the grand finale of the Spor Toto Super League playoffs on Saturday, in one of the most important matches in their century-old rivalry.

The two Istanbul teams will take part in a winner-takes-all battle on Saturday, with the winning team going on to claim the league title. The trophy will go to Galatasaray in the event of a draw.

Galatasaray leads the Spor Toto Super League championship playoffs, or Super Final, with 47 points, just one point ahead of defending champion Fenerbahçe.

However, Fenerbahçe has reason to believe that it is closer to the title as the match will be played at their home Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium. The Yellow Canaries have a clear advantage over Galatasaray at home.

Galatasaray last won in Kadıköy, on the Asian side of Istanbul, in 1999. The streak saw 10 consecutive losses in the last decade, but Galatasaray will draw hope from the fact that the last two derbies at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium ended in a draw.

Fener has momentum

Fenerbahçe comes into the game with some momentum. According to the newly-implemented playoff rules, Galatasaray saw its points halved at the end of the regular season. Before the start of the playoffs, Galatasaray had 77 points, nine more than Fenerbahçe. But it was not starting the playoffs with 39 points, to Fener’s 34, that put Galatasaray in their current perilous position – a poor playoff performance did.

After opening the post-season with a 2-0 win over Beşiktaş, Galatasaray had the chance to virtually end the title race on the second match-day of the Super Final, if they won over defending champion Fenerbahçe.

Galatasaray lost a game it largely dominated 2-1, and thus blew a chance to come into the last week without tension. Its erratic form continued with a goalless stalemate against Trabzonspor and a 2-2 draw against Beşiktaş. Had it won the two home games, Galatasaray could have taken this weekend’s derby as an exhibition match. But now it will have to fight for the title.

Nevertheless, leader Galatasaray still believes it has the edge. “We have the advantage against them,” Galatasaray’s right back Emmanuel Eboue said. “We will win the title even with a draw. So we need to be patient and play our own game.”

Ambitious Fenerbahçe has been fighting for the big victory all along. Starting the season under the fog of the match-fixing scandal, the Yellow Canaries took this season as one big opportunity to clear its name.

Rigging case woes

Five of the club’s officials, including chairman Aziz Yıldırım, are among the 93 Turkish football club officials, players and coaches that were listed as suspects in the case, which alleged that several games were manipulated in last season’s championship. The case shook the whole club, especially after it was barred from playing in the Champions League by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF).
Following the decision, Fenerbahçe had to sell several key players, including forward Mamadou Niang, defender Diego Lugano and winger Andre Santos, but the club continued fighting despite a weakened squad, taking the season into the last game.

There are worries that there could be crowd trouble in the game, even though no away fans will be allowed at the game. Fener goalkeeper Volkan Demirel warned that extremities of support can backfire for the team. “We’ve already showed that we are a team, regardless of the title. But we should know to congratulate our rivals if we cannot win,” Demirel said. “They should cheer for us, and they should pressure the rivals, but in a way not to put us under pressure.”

Fenerbahçe fans showed their interest in the title game by selling out the tickets in less than an hour earlier this week. However, the national media has reported that tickets are now being sold on the black-market for as high as 10,000 Turkish Liras.

On Friday, the TFF announced that it would award the trophy to the winning team at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium. After 40 rounds of a tumultuous football season, the winner will be crowned on Saturday, hopefully bringing the chaos to an end.

Turkey, Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, Super Toto League