Surprise package Başakşehir out to continue chase of Turkish Super League leader
AKHİSARThe Spor Toto Turkish Super League resumes this weekend after a national team break with Medipol Başakşehir, in hot pursuit of leader Beşiktaş, visiting relegation-threatened Akhihsar Belediyespor on April 1.
The biggest headache for Başakşehir is the absence due to suspension of veteran midfielder Emre Belözoğlu in the noon clash with Akhisar, which plays its home matches in the center of the western town of Manisa.
Coach Abdullah Avcı’s team will be looking to return to winning ways after drawing against Kardemir Karabükspor last week. Başakşehir remains on 55 points, two points behind Beşiktaş.
Responding to state-run Anadolu Agency over his team’s title potential, Avcı said he could speak more clearly after the crunch home game against Beşiktaş in a few weeks.
“If we can go there in a situation similar to today, then it will be right to speak about such things,” he said.
“I hope Beşiktaş will continue to use all its strength and focus in the Europa League,” he added.
Okan Buruk, who will have his first test as the new Akhisar Belediyespor head coach, ended his career in 2010 as a player at Başakşehir, which was then named Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor.
“Buruk is like my brother,” Avcı said. “But I will only wish him luck after our game.”
Başakşehir’s young star Cengiz Ünder, buoyed after scoring his first Turkish international goal against Moldova on March 27 in a pre-World Cup 2018 friendly, is one yellow card away from suspension, along with team mates Marcio Mossoro, Uğur Uçar and Alexandru Epureanu.
That is a potential hurdle for the relatively low-budget Başakşehir, just one week ahead of a tough game against third-place Galatasaray.
Beşiktaş, meanwhile, will host Ankara’s Gençlerbirliği on April 2, hoping to end a two game run of draws in the league.
It will be encouraged by the national team performance of its attacking players, especially Cenk Tosun, who scored twice against a Group I game against Finland on March 25, and Oğuzhan Özyakup, who assisted a goal against Moldova.
Galatarasaray will play against relegation-threatened Adanaspor on April 3 in the closing game of the week, trying to remain in the race despite a nine-point gap with Beşiktaş.
Fourth-placed Fenerbahçe will visit in-form Karabük on April 1, while Antalyaspor will host Kayserispor on the same day.
Çaykur Rizespor will take on rising team Trabzonspor, which beat Galatarasaray in the previous round of games, in a home match on March 2.
Bottom-placed Gaziantepspor will visit Ankara’s Osmanlıspor, while Atıker Konyaspor will host Bursaspor.