Coach Rıza Çalımbay’s Sivasspor started off the playoffs on a good note, trouncing former champion Bursaspor 4-0 in their debut game and clinching a 1-1 draw with Eskişehirspor in the second game to secure the top position after the first two games.
The schedule of the games pits the two teams against each other twice in two consecutive weeks. Çalımbay said this week that the two games that his team faces against İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor will determine the fate of Sivasspor in the playoff group. While noting that four games remained in the group and a defeat would be difficult to make up, the coach said: “As we get closer to the final weeks, each game gets more important. We must concentrate and play well.”
Çalımbay argued that İstanbul could surprise its opponents as it is such an unpredictable team. “You can experience hard times when you cannot concentrate well. For example, we lost a game where we could easily have gotten three points at home. That’s why we shouldn’t break from the game mentally,” he said and continued: “This is one of the most important games. Another one comes three days after this. If we want to play in the finals, we must get past these two matches as best we can.”
Sivasspor leads the Europa League playoff group with 29 points. Bursaspor trails the central Anatolian side by one point. With 27 points, Eskişehirspor is in third place and in last place is İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor with 26 points.
Çalımbay said none of the teams have secured a spot in the group and all teams are close to each other in terms of points. “Therefore every game is a final for us,” he added.
The team that finishes at the top of the group at the end of these six games will play another round of the playoffs with the team that finishes bottom in the championship playoffs in order to qualify for the Europa League, the second-tier European club competition.
Defender Murat Akça and midfielder Kıvanç Karakaş will be sidelined during Saturday’s game. Murat is down with an injury while Kıvanç will be absent due to a red card offense. Injured striker Michael Eneramo and midfielder Erman Kılıç are expected to make the game.
Meanwhile, Turkish media outlets have reported that Sivasspor is seeking to acquire three football players from Manisaspor, which was relegated to the second division this year. Nizamettin Çalışkan, Mehmet Güven and goalkeeper İlkay Avcıbay are reportedly on the radar of the Sivas team as part of its plans to create next season’s squad.
İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor, on the other hand, is getting ready for the game behind closed doors. After their last game against Bursaspor, which ended in a 3-2 defeat, coach Arif Erdem did not seem upset but in fact said he was happy to see his team playing well against a strong opponent.