Thousands of Beşiktaş fans flock to Gaziantep in anticipation
Gaziantepspor has already been relegated but the locals of the culinary capital of the country are taking solace in the fact that more than 25,000 Beşiktaş fans will flock to the southeastern province on May 28 to watch the defending champion attempt to clinch its second title in a row.
Beşiktaş could even be confirmed as champions on May 27 if its sole rival, Medipol Başakşehir, loses to bottom-placed Adanaspor. But regardless of the result of that game, Istanbul’s Black Eagles want to win their remaining two matches.
“We cannot afford to drop any points at this stage of the season,” said Beşiktaş coach Şenol Güneş after a 4-1 home victory against Kasımpaşa.
“The way my players played to this end deserves praise. We are going to win our remaining two matches and capture that Super League crown,” he said.
A hospitable Gaziantep has allocated most of the 36,000 seats to the visitor, declaring a modest ticket price.
Anadolu Agency reported that almost all hotels in the city were booked and operators have announced additional tours to the city known for baklava, a great local dessert; various kebab dishes; beyran, a spicy lamb soup; pistachios, along with many other tastes.
“Beşiktaş’s visit will contribute to all hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops,” said Eyüp Kavas, a hotel manager.
Ömer Güllüoğlu, the owner of a famous baklava brand, said this was a great opportunity to promote Gaziantep’s products.
Beşiktaş’s cushion over its follower increased to four at the end of last week when Başakşehir was held to a goalless draw away at Trabzonspor on May 21.
A broken Başakşehir coach Abdullah Avcı said after the game that he was proud of what his side achieved during the season, admitting that the title chances for the dark horse and winter champions had all but evaporated.
“The club has been restructured in the past three years and managed to appear in European competitions for twice. Guaranteeing [a place in] the Champions League next season is an important achievement. We will play the final of the Ziraat Turkey Cup. We want to end the marvelous season in a marvelous way.”
Başakşehir is guaranteed a place in at least the third qualifying round of the 2017-18 Champions League, where it is likely to face one of Dynamo Kyiv, Ajax, CSKA Moscow, Club Brugge, Steaua Bucharest or Viktoria Plzen. If the Istanbul were to successfully negotiate that round, it could face a bigger European giant such as Liverpool or Sevilla in a playoff for a place in the Champions League group stage. If Başakşehir were to lose in the third qualifying round, it would enter the playoff round for next season’s Europa League.
Güneş, for his part, will be the first Turkish coach to clinch the title with Beşiktaş twice, as well as in two seasons in a row.
He also took the team to the Europa League quarter-finals, bowing to Olympique Lyon in a penalty shootout.
The club has refuted media claims that he will leave his post next season.
But the situation is a little more complicated for the squad, with many local and European clubs knocking on the door for the stars of the season.
Brazilian Anderson Talisca, for example, is on loan from Porto with a clause in the contract providing an advantage to the Portuguese side. Rumors say Manchester United is interested in him.
Playmaker Oğuzhan Özyakup is also on the shopping list of many clubs, with Turkish media speculating that Italy’s Roma are keen on his services.
Striker Cenk Tosun, who has scored 18 so far, has also attracted the attention of many clubs.
No preliminary deals have been confirmed yet but the team already has an incoming player. Gökhan Töre, who went to West Ham United at the start of the season on loan, will return to his home team, the Premier League side has announced.