Only three teams are undefeated after five matches in the ongoing Spor Toto Super League season -- defending champion and leader Galatasaray, third-placed Orduspor and No. 4 Fenerbahçe.
But that might change this evening, barring a draw, after the match of the week between Orduspor and visiting Galatasaray, also known as the Lions, at 19 Eylül Stadium on Friday evening.
For Galatasaray battling on two tough fronts, this week six match is of utmost importance because it is the last rehearsal before the UEFA Champions League Group H qualifier against Portuguese outfit Braga in İstanbul next Tuesday.
“We are in dire need of victory over Orduspor to boost team morale ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League match,” Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim said. “If we win this [Ordu] match, our players will take to the field against Braga with morale sky high,” he noted.
Lions wary of Ordu
The Galatasaray coach, without the slightest doubt, is wary of Hector Cuper’s undefeated Orduspor and is therefore expected to field his strongest team possible against the Black Sea side.
Goal-machine Umut Bulut, who was injured in the Champions League qualifying match at Old Trafford on Sept. 19 and missed Sunday’s Super League home game against Akhisar Belediyespor, is now fit as a fiddle.
This means Umut is expected to regain his starting position up front and partner with the other goal king, Burak Yılmaz, who scored a brace in Galatasaray’s resounding 3-0 victory over Akhisar. Sweden forward Johan Elmander, who is still struggling to regain his form, might be benched.
Umut’s recovery also means that Terim has a very fit team and apart from injured winger Sabri Sarıoğlu, who trained separately from the team this week, Galatasaray has no other injury or suspension worry.
Terim gave young rock-solid defender Semih Kaya, whose surname means “rock,” a rest during the game against Akhisar, and 35-year-old Brazilian center back Cristiano Marques Gomes, or simply Cris, was given a chance in the starting line-up. These two players are likely to switch places in Ordu. Left back Hakan Kadir Balta also rested on Sunday and will very likely return to his position on Friday.
Terim’s Lions have won four, drawn one and garnered 13 points out of a possible 15 in five outings; and they also have the best offense in the 18-strong Super League, having scored 15 and conceded six.
Ordu no pushover
Galatasaray is currently the best in the Super League as the standings clearly show. But it would be suicidal to take Cuper’s undefeated Ordu for granted. The team, which has won two and drawn three, aims to snap the Lions’ unbeaten streak and return them to İstanbul empty-handed.
“We will be playing against a big team and therefore must strive to do everything right,” Cuper said. “We must guard against making mistakes because Galatasaray is a quality team, and to accomplish this we must maintain our concentration,” he added.
But Cuper’s game plan may be hampered by the injury to star Cote d’Ivoire midfielder Jean-Jacques Gosso Gosso, who will almost definitely miss Friday’s match.
Portuguese defender Miguel Angelo Moita Garcia, Nuremberg-born midfielder Şamil Cinaz and Munich-born defender Selçuk Şahin were the other Ordu players on the list of the walking wounded this week. And whether they will recover before match time remains to be seen. But Galatasaray reject Romanian striker Bogdan Sorin Stancu will certainly play against his former team.
It promises to be an interesting and entertaining game because rampaging Galatasaray wants to win and Orduspor is in no mood to lose. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. and the referee will be Barış Şimşek.