Super Final starts under clouds of off-pitch issues
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Galatasaray will visit Beşiktaş this weekend in a key Spor Toto Super League playoff battle between two Istanbul rivals. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL
Two big games will start the playoff rounds this weekend, but both meetings are sure to be overshadowed by feuds and problems off the pitch.
Galatasaray visits Beşiktaş on April 14, while Fenerbahçe hosts Trabzonspor on April 15 on the opening weekend of the six-week Spor Toto Super League playoff stage, or Super Final.
According to the newly imposed playoff rule, the top four teams enter the title race with their regular season points halved, meaning Galatasaray has to regain its advantage.
The Lions stormed through the season, opening a nine-point advantage over Fenerbahçe and 19 points over Beşiktaş and Trabzonspor. Despite their big lead, the Lions risk falling back if they suffer a setback.
Galatasaray’s build-up to the game was somewhat overshadowed by a dressing-room fight between two of its players, Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo and Spanish winger Albert Riera.
Melo punched Riera in the eye last week after a quarrel during the day’s training session continued in the dressing room of the team’s Florya Metin Oktay facilities.
Coach Fatih Terim left the two players out of the Galatasaray squad roster for the match against Manisaspor on April 8, the last day of the Spor Toto Super League regular season, but the duo have been added back to the team starting with the playoff process.
Earlier this week, Melo called a press conference to openly apologize to Riera, the coach and the fans, saying such an incident would never happen again.
“Such an event happened for the first time in my career. It was a first and will be the last, I want to stress that,” Melo said.
While Galatasaray hopes to leave the drama behind, Beşiktaş is not stress-free, since the team will have only its second game with coach Tayfur Havutçu at the helm.
Former director of football Havutçu replaced Carlos Carvalhal as the head coach after a string of inconsistent performances. A problematic dressing room did not help Carvalhal as well, since he was reportedly one of the two parts of a dressing room feud with superstar winger Ricardo Quaresma.
Beşiktaş will have to cope with the absence of Portuguese striker Hugo Almeida, who was handed a three-match ban by the Turkish Football Federation, due to his attitude in the Kardemir Karabükspor game last week.
Sunday’s Fenerbahçe vs. Trabzonspor match will not just be about this year’s title, since the two teams have their private battle going on after last year’s championship.
Fenerbahçe won last year’s title over Trabzonspor with only a single-goal advantage, but their victory was overshadowed by a match-fixing investigation.
Five Fenerbahçe officials, including Aziz Yıldırım, were among the total of 93 officials and players that were charged with match-fixing. Trabzonspor has been continuously claiming last year’s trophy should be awarded to them, and on Friday, they released a statement addressing the Football Federation to award last season’s trophy to the club.
Fenerbahçe, on the other hand, has long been claiming the club has been victimized by a plot aiming to dethrone Aziz Yıldırım, who said Trabzonspor officials were aware that the investigation would be launched.
Euro playoffs under way
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
The Europa League playoffs of the Spor Toto Super League start this weekend under the shadow of the league title challenge.
Four teams, who finished the regular season from fifth to eighth spots, will form the Europa League playoffs. The team who finishes at the top of the Europa League playoffs will play a deciding game against the team finishing fourth in the Championship Playoff. The winner of the tie will qualify for Europa League preliminaries.
Istanbul B.B. hosts Eskişehirspor on April 14, while Sivasspor entertains Bursaspor on April 15.
That will be the second meeting between Sivasspor and Bursaspor this week, after their Turkish Cup quarterfinal meeting on April 12, when Bursa beat Sivas 4-1.