Leader Beşiktaş hosts Fenerbahçe in crucial Istanbul derby

Leader Beşiktaş hosts Fenerbahçe in crucial Istanbul derby

Leader Beşiktaş hosts Fenerbahçe in crucial Istanbul derby

The Turkish Süper Lig’s showpiece event in Week 30 pits high-flying league leader Beşiktaş against inconsistent Fenerbahçe in an Istanbul derby.

Beşiktaş is heading to March 21’s game on a six-match winning streak in the league, while Fenerbahçe, which trails the leader by five points in the third spot, lost three of its last seven league games, with last week’s 2-1 home loss against bottom club Gençlerbirliği adding to the pressure on coach Erol Bulut.

Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe will still have their bye weeks, with the league being played with 21 teams, while Beşiktaş enjoys being atop the standings despite playing one less game than its rivals.

A 3-2 win in overtime in a Ziraat Turkish Cup match on March 16 carried Beşiktaş to the final, boosting the team’s morale.

Speaking after the cup victory, Beşiktaş coach Sergen Yalçın said though playing a 120-minute game ahead of a crucial derby was tough, he still had victory in mind.

“The derby game will be a tough one,” he said. “We have five days. We will prepare our players, mentally and physically, and we will prepare our game plans. We will do everything to win.”

Bulut, on the other hand, is feeling immense fan pressure after last weekend’s loss. Calls for his sacking have grown on social media, while the club chairman, Ali Koç, is also getting his share of criticism.

Koç was elected as the club president in June 2018 in a program promising a complete overhaul of the club structure and sustainable success both at home and on the European stage.

However, Fenerbahçe finished the league sixth in his first season in charge, and seventh last season, while failing to go beyond the semifinal in the cup competition.

The promise of success in Europe also failed as the team was knocked out in the last 32 stages of the Europa League in the 2018-2019 season while missing a ticket to Europe the next year.

A loss at Beşiktaş on March 21 will practically end Fenerbahçe’s league title dreams this season, making it very tough for Bulut to stay in charge, while also denting Koç’s plans to run for another three-year term in June.

Galatasaray, which was to host Rizespor late on March 19, will try to make the best use of the week with its two title rivals playing against each other.

There is also a tough fight against relegation, with defending champion Başakşehir still in the danger zone.

The club will seek the only second win of its last 13 league games when it visits second from the bottom Denizlispor on March 21 to avoid winning the undesired honor of being the first defending Turkish league champion to relegate.

Another crucial game for the relegation fight will be played on March 20 when Gençlerbirliği, whose first win in 12 games came last weekend against Fenerbahçe, hosts Kasımpaşa.

Elsewhere on March 20, Göztepe plays Sivasspor at home, Gaziantep visits Malatyaspor and Trabzonspor hosts Ankaragücü.

On March 21, Antalyaspor, which will play Beşiktaş in the Turkish Cup final, entertains Erzurumspor, and Alanyaspor, which lost to its city rival in the cup semifinal on March 17, travels to Konyaspor.