Süper Lig title race resumes after three-month pandemic break
The Turkish Süper Lig competition is set to resume behind closed doors following an almost three-month break due the coronavirus pandemic.
League leader Trabzonspor will play an away game at Göztepe and Fenerbahçe will host Kayserispor on June 12 in the first games after the league was suspended on March 19 along with all sports events in the country, days after the first coronavirus case in Turkey was officially announced.
The cases included some names from the football community, including Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim, Beşiktaş chairman Ahmet Nur Çebi, several players and staff members. All have successfully recovered.
With the easing of measures taken to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) announced the return of the league competition last month.
The games will be played without spectators, and fans will not be allowed to gather near the venues. However, TFF chair Nihat Özdemir said earlier this month that fans could be allowed in the stadiums after mid-July if allowed by the government.
“As FIFA and UEFA have always highlighted, it has been found appropriate to determine the champion of the league and the relegated teams with sporting results, and a consensus has been reached to complete the season in the announced status,” the federation said, adding that the matches will be played under new regulations to ensure the health safety of the players and the staff.
According to the new rules, the teams will be allowed up to five substitutions per game and an additional substitution will be permissible in extra time in case of an elimination match.
If the number of eligible players from any team falls below 14 due to positive coronavirus cases, the team’s match will be postponed.
Players and the staff in the bench will have to leave two seats empty between each other and anyone with body temperature of 37.8 degrees Centigrade or higher will not be allowed to enter the stadiums.
Substitute players will have to wear protective masks, and no one will permitted to attend the matches without masks.
With eight games remaining in the 34-game season, Trabzonspor leads the pack with 53 points on a goal difference from second-placed Başakşehir.
Başakşehir will return to action on June 13 when it hosts Alanyaspor in Istanbul.
Defending champion Galatasaray, which trails the top two by three points, will be away at Rizespor on June 14.
Central Anatolian club Sivasspor, which topped the league standings for weeks before losing steam, is in the fourth spot with 49 points and plays Denizlispor at home on June 15 in the final game of the Week 27 competition.
While the race for the league trophy is tight, the fight against relegation will also be fierce. Six points separate the last seven teams, with three of them to drop to League One after the TFF refused to scrap relegation despite a proposal put forward by the clubs.
Gençlerbirliği, three points away from the relegation zone, takes on Konyaspor, which also desperately needs points, at home, on June 14, while the other Ankara club, Ankaragücü, hopes for a victory against Gaziantep in an away game.
Beşiktaş, which has mostly failed to keep its title hopes alive, hosts Antalyaspor on June 13, which will also see Kasımpaşa visits Malatyaspor.
Turkish football’s normalization phase will continue with Turkish Cup semifinal games next week and the lower-tier leagues starting next weekend.