Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray derby clash to heat up title race
ISTANBULThe race for the title in the Spor Toto Super League might get closer this weekend when Fenerbahçe hosts archrival Galatasaray in an Istanbul derby March 8.
Galatasaray tops the league standings with 51 points in 22 games, four points ahead of third-placed Fenerbahçe.
Beşiktaş, in second spot with 48 points, will be travelling to Sivasspor to play a few hours before the derby. The Istanbul club’s players will be hoping to clinch a victory and watch their opponents beat up each other in the evening.
Both Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray are highly-motivated for the game, to a point that the home team coach İsmail Kartal said, “I’m so fired up for the match I could go on the pitch and play.”
“Everybody should know that Saraçoğlu is our temple, there is no way out,” Kartal told reporters.
“We will win this game with the energy our supporters give us. There is no team we will not beat when the supporters and the players become untied as a whole,” he said.
Galatasaray will also try to beat the odds against Fenerbahçe. Although it has dominated the Istanbul derbies in the last four seasons, having won 12 of its last 21 games against Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş and losing only three, it has also lost 12 of its last 15 games at Fenerbahçe and drew three.
The last time Galatasaray won at Fenerbahçe away was Dec. 22, 1999, but coach Hamza Hamzaoğlu has set his eyes to break the jinx.
“We will not play for a draw to maintain the points difference, Galatasaray is not such a team, we will be there for a victory,” daily Hürriyet quoted Hamzaoğlu as saying on March 6.
Kartal will have to fix the problems in Fenerbahçe’s offensive line. The team lost 2-1 to Akhisar Belediye and was held to a 1-1 draw at Torku Konyaspor last week, with goals coming from midfielder Raul Meireles and defender Egemen Korkmaz.
Forwards Moussa Sow, Emmanuel Emenike, Pierre Webo and Dirk Kuyt were silent in those matches, and coach Kartal is considering fielding Brazilian midfielder Diego Ribas in the starting lineup, according to reports.
Away fans will not be allowed at Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium due to security concerns, but Galatasaray Chairman Duygun Yarsuvat and a group of board members are expected to be in the stadium.
Also on March 8, fourth-placed Istanbul Başakşehir will host Torku Konyaspor, while Gaziantepspor travels to Karabükspor.
In Week 23 games on March 7, cellar-dweller Balıkesirspor will take on Çaykur Rizespor at home, Bursaspor will hope to cut the gap between itself and the top four with a victory at Eskişehirspor and Kayseri Erciyesspor and Gençlerbirliği will clash at Kayseri.
Trabzonspor will visit Mersin İdmanyurdu in the last game of Week 23 on March 9.