Little left to play for in the Super League regular season
Hürriyet Daily News
Beşiktaş became the fourth team to qualify for the Spor Toto Super League championship playoffs after a 2-2 draw against Istanbul BB in a game played at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium. Istanbul BB has a slender chance for the Europa League playoff. AA photo
Whether in the top spots in the standings, the mid-table or the relegation zone, there is very little left to play for in the regular season of the Spor Toto Super League.
Trabzonspor and Beşiktaş joined Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe as qualifiers for the championship playoffs, which the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) has dubbed the “Super Final.” According to the newly-imposed system, the top four teams will enter a six-week playoff stage at the end of the regular season, starting with half of the points they collected in the regular season.
With the country’s “big four,” who hold 54 of the 55 national titles between them, already booking their spots for the post-season, a football fan could look further down in the standings for more excitement, but there’s not much to see. There are almost 10 teams with a mathematical chance at the five-to-eight playoffs, which will be called the Europa League playoffs, but Sivasspor, Bursaspor, Eskişehirspor and Gençlerbirliği have virtually locked in their spots. That belief stems from the fact that teams slightly outside the relegation zone tend to stop concentrating once they are in the clear.
Take Mersin İdman Yurdu, for example. The Mediterranean side beat some top teams such as Trabzonspor, Beşiktaş and Gençlerbirliği last month, but after that it seems to have ended its season and has even lost to Manisaspor and Samsunspor. That was only Samsunspor’s second win in six games, and to make matters worse, it was Manisaspor’s second win in 21 games.
The same can be said for Orduspor: After the Super League newcomers took a fresh breath of air with a 1-0 win over Kayserispor, they did not win any of their next four matches. With teams feeling comfortable like that, it will be hard to see anyone pushing to participate in another six-week run, which is quite likely to end in nothing. The fourth team in the Super Final will meet the top of the Europa League playoffs, for a ticket to the European qualification.
After that “playoff of the playoffs,” one team will qualify for the Europa League qualifiers, which many Turkish teams feel they could do without. Maybe they have Gaziantepspor in mind: With a largely unchanged squad, Gaziantepspor went from being the fourth team of the league last season to a relegation-battler. The main difference was an early start to the season due to the Euro qualifiers, which ended in a frustration.
The relegation battle is not likely to go to the wire, either. After suffering a 3-1 defeat to Sivasspor, Manisaspor joined Ankaragücü as the second team to be relegated from the top-flight teams. Only Samsunspor and Medical Park Antalyaspor are in the battle now, but the former needs to collect six points of a possible six when it visits Beşiktaş and takes on Sivasspor.
Former TFF Chairman Mehmet Ali Aydınlar has said the TFF came up with the playoffs idea only in order to “get people talking about football again,” when the national sports scene was dominated by talk of match-fixing. Now the playoffs are near, and most fans are talking about calculations, points and the pros and cons of the playoffs -- anything but the game on the pitch.