Turkish league leader Başakşehir rejects title talk as second half begins
ISTANBULThe second half of the Spor Toto Super League season starts with surprise package Başakşehir atop the standings, but the Istanbul club’s coach is refusing to discuss his side’s title chances.
Unbeaten Başakşehir leads the league with 10 victories from 16 games, one point ahead of Beşiktaş on 35 points.
But Başakşehir coach Adbullah Avcı does not want to field questions on the title ahead of a home game against Kayserispor on Jan. 14.
“What matters to me now is the game we will play this weekend; we are totally focused on that,” Avcı told reporters midweek during a refereeing seminar in Antalya.
“We will never make the mistake of being mesmerized by the word ‘championship.’ But the fact is we want to develop and go further every season; we are working for that purpose,” said Avcı, whose side finished the league in fourth place last season.
Başakşehir made a significant addition to its squad during the winter break, signing young gun İrfan Can Kahveci from Gençlerbirliği for a reported transfer fee of 1.5 million euros.
Başakşehir’s closest rival in the title race, defending champion Beşiktaş, has also made an addition to its squad, signing Dutch forward Ryan Babel on a two-and-a-half-year contract.
However, the club failed to bring in Antalyaspor’s Cameroonian star Samuel Eto’o, who the fans hoped would fill the void created by German striker Mario Gomez’s departure at the end of last season.
Still, Beşiktaş coach Şenol Güneş has his eyes on the league title as the team prepares to host Osmanlıspor on Jan. 16, and is ready to abandon the Europa League to focus on the domestic trophy.
“We want to advance in the Europa League, but I want the league title more than the Europa League,” Güneş told reporters in Antalya, adding that Beşiktaş’s biggest opponent would be itself.
“The first six games will be very important, we will have a tough period,” he said. “Our first opponent is Osmanlıspor, we will play to beat every opponent.”
Güneş said the tile race was not a two-horse race.
“Today Başakşehir is the leader, tomorrow it may be another team. We do not have only one rival. Both Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray have very strong squads; they will do well in the second half of the league,” Güneş said.
Third-placed Galatasaray was one of the busiest teams in the winter break, spending a reported fee of 7 million euros to add winger Garry Rodrigues from PAOK and defender Ahmet Çalık from Gençlerbirliği to its squad.
Also, Chinese clubs are reportedly interested in Lukas Podolski, who will be in the squad when Galatasaray travels to Konyaspor on Jan. 14.
The club’s Dutch coach, Jan Olde Riekerink, is hopeful about his side’s chances in the league competition.
“We are not in a bad position. I can say that our current place gives us the chance to be optimistic about the second half,” Riekerink told reporters.
The Dutchman noted that Galatasaray would play two back-to-back away games, and would do its best to win both at Konyaspor this weekend and Karabükspor next week.
Also on Jan. 14 in the league, Aytemiz Alanyaspor hosts Rizespor and Akhisar Belediye travels to Karabükspor.
In Jan. 15’s games, Kasımpaşa entertains Gençlerbirliği at home, Antalyaspor visits Gaziantepspor and fourth-placed Fenerbahçe starts the second half of the league with a home game against cellar-dweller Adanaspor.
Bursaspor was to host Trabzonspor in the first game of Week 17 late on Jan. 13.