Title chasers hold high hopes

Title chasers hold high hopes

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Title chasers hold high hopes

Beşiktaş midfielder Oğuzhan Özyakup (R) is one of the best performers of the Spor Toto Super League campaign so far. Former Arsenal youth player is one of the young guns that have delivered the goods under coach Samet Aybaba’s helm.AA photo

The second part of the Spor Toto Super League opens this weekend with the main focus being on three title contenders trying to keep pace with leader Galatasaray.

Beşiktaş hosts Istanbul BB on Jan. 19 while Fenerbahçe takes on Sanica Boru Elazığspor and Medical Park Antalyaspor entertains Gençlerbirliği on Jan. 20, in three important games involving the title contention.

Defending champion Galatasaray, who was scheduled to open the second part of the season with a game against Kasımpaşa on Jan. 18, finished the first part of the campaign with 33 points. Beşiktaş and Antalyaspor have 30, while Fenerbahçe has 27 points.

For Beşiktaş, Istanbul BB will be a test of whether or not the team can continue its stunning run toward the end of the first part of the season. The Black Eagles are on a league-best 10-game unbeaten streak in a season in which they started with comparably lower expectations than their archrivals, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe.

Cash-strapped Beşiktaş had to offload many of its stars to ease its wage bill, and steered away from expensive signings. Furthermore, losing two key players, left back İsmail Köybaşı and forward Mustafa Pektemek, to long-term injuries did not help the club’s fortunes either. However, coach Samet Aybaba’s young guns, including former Arsenal youth player Oğuzhan Özyakup and midfielder Necip Uysal, delivered above expectations to give Beşiktaş hope that it can run for the title.

Free scoring Eagles

Beşiktaş has been a joy to watch not only for its fans but for neutrals, too, as the team has scored a league-high 38 goals in the first 17 games. However, it has allowed 25 goals, one of the poorest records in that department.

On Jan. 19, Beşiktaş will try to improve its dismal record against Istanbul BB as well, having won just two of a total of 13 meetings.

On the same day, Sivasspor will meet Gaziantepspor and Bursaspor will meet Kayserispor.

Beşiktaş’s first-half performance could be surprising to some, but that of Antalyaspor’s definitely exceeded expectations, with the Mediterranean club, who appeared to be staging a relegation battle at the beginning of the season, giving Istanbul’s big three a run for their money.

Although it has lost 4-0 and 5-3 to Galatasaray and Beşiktaş respectively, a 3-1 win over Fener that ended the Yellow Canaries’ two-year unbeaten streak in home games, showed Antalyaspor can live up to the occasion. The team will have a solid opponent in Gençlerbirliği on Jan. 20.

Fenerbahçe, who is left six points behind its archrival Galatasaray, still wants to believe that it has a shot at the title, the club confides from a mid-season training camp in Antalya. Quotes from players and coach Aykut Kocaman liken the atmosphere in Antalya to a similar camp held in 2011, when Fenerbahçe eventually reduced an eight-point gap with Trabzonspor to win the title.

Also on Jan. 20, Trabzonspor, who had a disappointing first part performance, will meet Kardemir Karabükspor.