Galatasaray looks to end year on top

Galatasaray looks to end year on top

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Galatasaray looks to end year on top

Galatasaray defender Semih Kaya (L) has managed to get a regular place in the first team at the expense of the likes of Turkish internationals Servet Çetin and Gökhan Zan. AA photo

Galatasaray will try to become “winter champions” for the first time in a decade when it hosts Manisaspor in the Spor Toto Super League tonight.

The Lions are on a five-week winning run – good enough for the best streak in the division together with Eskişehirspor – and are only a win away from finishing the year on the top of standings, something they have not achieved since 2001.

The last time Galatasaray ended the year on top was in the 2001-2002 season, when they eventually won the title.

During that 10-year period, Fenerbahçe was named the winter champions four times, while Sivasspor and Beşiktaş won the honorific title twice.

No guarantees

However, Galatasaray will have to bear in mind that ending the calendar year on top does not provide any guarantee that the club will lift the silverware at the end, as the winter champions have only four of the last 10 titles. The last time a winter champion claimed the league title was Fenerbahçe in 2006-2007.

Even if not for the winter championship, Galatasaray will try to end a turbulent year on a high note with a win over Manisaspor. Looking at the table-topping team, it is hard to remember that it was the outfit that made wholesale changes out of desperation in mid-season. Last January, the team bought no less than five players, including Colombian goalkeeper Emiliano Zapata, Romanian forward Bogdan Stancu and Argentine midfielder Juan Emmanuel Culio to turn things around, but they did not help. All of them were sent to other teams as the season ended in a disappointment for Galatasaray.

Third coach

Fatih Terim, Galatasaray’s third coach this calendar year, was brought to the helm in June and managed to mould a squad of newly acquired players into a solid group. After impressive wins over Trabzonspor and Fenerbahçe in a space of four days, Galatasaray has taken over the league and started to emerge as the main title contender.

The Galatasaray-Manisaspor game kicks off at 8:30 p.m.

Two relegation-battlers, Sivasspor and Samsunspor, will meet in another match at 8:30 p.m.

Defending champion Fenerbahçe, who is level on points with Galatasaray but only trails its archrival on goal difference, visits Medical Park Antalyaspor at 6 p.m. tonight.

Fourth-place Eskişehirspor will take on fifth Mersin İdman Yurdu in an important battle, while Kayserispor meets bottom-dweller Ankaragücü, also at 6 p.m.