Turkish league fever begins
Turkey’s Spor Toto Super League will begin Aug. 19 when newcomer Adanaspor from the south of the country hosts Bursaspor, one of just five teams to have lifted the title.
Engin İpekoğlu, a former Turkish international goalkeeper who coaches Adana, said he wanted to make the fans happy as the side returns to the top tier for the first time since 2004.
But he is not the only one hoping to please the supporters. Beşiktaş hopes to defend last year’s title, despite the fact that it has lost Gökhan Töre to the Premier League’s West Ham United, failed to strike a deal with last year’s top scorer, Mario Gomez, and is still facing trouble renewing a deal with playmaker Ernesto Sosa, who is on the shopping list of AC Milan.
Still, the black-and-white side managed to keep stars such as Ricardo Quaresma, who returned from Euro 2016 with a winner’s medal, and Oğuzhan Özyakup, who provided critical direction to the team last season.
The Istanbul side also signed archrival Fenerbahçe’s right back Gökhan Gönül and Deportivo la Coruna goalkeeper Fabricio Agosto Ramirez.
Beşiktaş will host Alanya, another newcomer to the top tier, on Aug. 20.
Alanya coach Hüseyin Kalpar said an early game against a title contender could turn into an advantage due to a lack of harmony in the rival.
Black Sea giant Trabzonspor seeks a new start under coach Ersun Yanal, who returned to the team for a third term late in May.
The team strengthened its ranks, hiring Porto’s South Korean striker Hyun-Jun Suk during the summer transfer window. Still, the team will face a hard test when it hosts Kasımpaşaspor, one of the most prominent underdogs last season, on Aug. 20.
Another Black Sea team, Çaykur Rizespor, will take on Konyaspor, which finished the league in a club record third last season, earning it direct passage to the group stage of the Europa League.
Fenerbahçe, last season’s runner-up, made an eleventh-hour change and replaced Portuguese coach Vitor Periera with experienced Dutch boss Dick Advocaat on Aug. 18, following another disappointment in a Champions League qualification match-up with Monaco.
The renewed Fenerbahçe now has former Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel, Dutch right back Gregory van der Wiel and former Beşiktaş left back İsmail Köybaşı in addition to its Dutch star Robin Van Persie and Portuguese winger Louis Nani.
Fener will seek a good start on Aug. 21 in its first game away against Medical Başakşehir, the mid-budget Istanbul side which finished the league in fourth last season.
On the same day, Ankara’s Gençlerbirliği takes on Gaziantepspor, Akhisar Belediye visits Kayserispor, which narrowly escaped relegation last season, and Antalyaspor hosts Osmanlıspor.
In the closing game of the first week on Aug. 22, Galatasaray, which finished last season some 28 points behind the leader, will host a third newcomer, Kardemir Karabükspor.
Galatarasaray signed Turkish-origin Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok, who spent a good year with Kasımpaşa last season.
Dutchman Jan Olde Riekerink has raised hopes following a Turkish Super Cup win against Beşiktaş on Aug. 13 in a penalty shootout.
The team’s biggest gun is another Dutchman, playmaker Wesley Sneijder.
RACE FOR THE STARS
Fenerbahçe will fight this season to clinch a 20th title to achieve its fourth star on its jersey and equal matters with archrival Galatasaray, while Beşiktaş is after a third star with 14 league victories so far.
FOUR NEW STADIUMS UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Trabzonspor, Adanaspor, Gaziantepspor and Akhisar Belediyespor are in a rush to open their new stadiums this season. Three new stadiums were opened last season.
Currently, the total seat capacity of the 18 first-tier teams stands at 478,665. The four new stadiums will increase the figure to 524, 284.
YOUNG VERSUS EXPERIENCED
The oldest player in the league this season – some 10 days before the close of the summer transfer window – is Kardemir Karabükspor’s Ahmet Şahin, 38. Bursaspor’s Mehmet Ataberk Dadakdeniz, 17, is the youngest.
The tallest player is Osmanlıspor’s Szukala at 1.98 meters in height. Çaykur Rizespor’s diminutive Recep Niyaz, at 1.65 meters, is the shortest player.