Başakşehir out to grab winter title

Başakşehir out to grab winter title

Başakşehir out to grab winter title

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The Spor Toto Super League’s surprise leader, Başakşehir, will hope to grab the symbolic title of winter champions when it travels to Adanaspor on Dec. 24 while also maintaining its unbeaten start to the season.

Second-placed Beşiktaş, which trails its city rival by three points, hosts Gaziantepspor in Istanbul also on Dec. 24. Even if Başakşehir were to lose to relegation-threatened Adana, Beşiktaş would need a multi-goal victory to climb into top spot, since it is six goals behind the leader on goal difference.

The Turkish league will go into the winter break at the conclusion of Week 16 games on Dec. 26, returning on the weekend of Jan. 14-15.

Başakşehir, which won its first four games of the season, including victories against Fenerbahçe at home and Bursaspor away, was expected to fade away as the weeks passed, but the team of former Turkish national team coach Abdullah Avcı has proved the doubters wrong.

Avcı’s squad, which brings together experienced, major team rejects – such as former Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe player Emre Belözoğlu and former Fenerbahçe goalkeeper Volkan Babacan – with well-scouted foreigners and raw young talent, has not lost in its last 24 league games, winning 10 games in 15 weeks this season.

Avcı said the current condition of the team came as a surprise to him, too.

Recalling that the team finished the league in fourth place in the previous two seasons, Avcı said the pre-season target for Başakşehir was to go beyond that success.

“The position we are in now was not something that came to our minds,” he told Anadolu Agency. “We expected to be among the top four at the winter break, but not to be the leader.”

But according to the experienced coach, it is too early to talk about the team’s title chances.

“We have not even completed half of the road,” he said. “We do not have any talks on ‘unbeaten’ or ‘championship’ in the team, and I don’t want it to be a subject outside the club. We will move piece by piece.”

For the Adanaspor game, Avcı was cautious although their opponent is second from bottom in the league standings.

“An on-form team playing against a newcomer; such games are sometimes the hardest,” the coach said.

“We want to finish 2016 both atop the standings and unbeaten, and mentally prepare for the second half during the break because the games in the league’s second half will be much more difficult with us being in the sights for all the teams,” he added.

For Beşiktaş, the aim is to shrug off last week’s defeat at Antalyaspor, the first league defeat of the season for the Istanbul club, and go into the winter break ahead of its archrivals Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe.

Galatasaray hosts Alanyaspor on Dec. 25, while Fenerbahçe travels to struggling Trabzonspor on Dec. 26 for the final game of the league season’s first half.

Also this weekend, Rizespor entertains Osmanlıspor at home, Konyaspor travels to Akhisar Belediye, Karabükspor visits Kayserispor and Antalyaspor hosts Kasımpaşa.

Fifth-placed Bursaspor will be at Gençlerbirliği away on Dec. 26.