But things do not seem the same now as Fenerbahçe (the Yellow Canaries) welcomes Beşiktaş (the Black Eagles) to Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium in Kadıköy on Sunday in week three of the ongoing Super Final.
Put another way, the gulf between the two teams is vast as they head into this evening’s match. The Canaries appear to be the “strongest” link in the inaugural Super Final, with two wins in as many matches. They beat Trabzonspor 2-0 at home in the opener on April 14 and overcame Galatasaray 2-1 away in the “mother of all derbies” at Türk Telekom Arena last Sunday.
Highly indeb-ted Beşiktaş, on the other hand, appears to be the exact antithesis of Fenerbahçe. It is the Super Final’s “weakest link,” having lost two in a row. The Black Eagles were downed 2-0 at home in week one by Galatasaray and bowed 1-0 away to Trabzonspor in week two at Hüseyin Avni Aker Stadium last Saturday.
The Eagles started the Super Final with 28 points and still have 28 because nothing has changed for the better, while the Canaries, who began with 34, now have 40.
There are four games to go with 12 points at stake. But the Eagles do not stand the least chance of finishing first or second in the four-team Super Final playoffs and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next season. The best the Eagles can do under the current circumstances would be to finish third and play in the second-tier UEFA Europa League.
But for that to happen, the Eagles have to win all of their remaining matches. In other words, they cannot afford to lose to the high-flying Canaries in Kadıköy on Sunday. They must also strive to defeat Trabzonspor at home, Galatasaray away and Fenerbahçe at home in the upcoming matches.
Beşiktaş will be missing several players on Sunday due to various injuries. The defense is in tatters with injured defenders Necip Uysal, İsmail Köybaşı and Tomas Sivok still recuperating. These players missed training sessions this week and therefore are doubtful on Sunday.
The Eagles again will be banking on their best player, Portugal all-rounder Manuel Fernandes, to deliver. The bearded Fernandes performed below par against Galatasaray and Trabzonspor, and the Eagles duly lost. Slovakia striker Filip Holosko has been firing blanks recently and he should start scoring again to save the Eagles.
And new Beşiktaş Chairman Fikret Orman, acknowledging that times are tough, has called for unity and more devotion. “I think it’s necessary to say certain things clearly,” he said.
“Beşiktaş, perhaps, is going through one of the toughest times in its history. I accepted this job under these difficult conditions, and our priority is to drag Beşiktaş out of its current quagmire,” he asserted. Reports have said players have not been paid their salaries and dues for several months. And whether words alone can motivate hungry people with empty stomachs to play good football remains to be seen.
Beşiktaş coach Tayfur Havutçu will have to rediscover his motivational power so that his Eagles do not go out of the Super League with a whimper.
The Canaries beat leader Galatasaray 2-1 away in the Super Final last Sunday to reduce the gap at the top to only two points. But it was indeed a Pyrrhic victory.
Senegal striker Moussa Sow, who was stretchered off the pitch with a knee injury, is out of the season. Regular starters captain Alex de Souza, defenders Bekir İrtegün and Joseph Yobo, and midfielder Mehmet Topuz all had bad knocks last Sunday and were not included in the Fener squad in the Ziraat Turkish Cup against Kardemir Karabükspor at Ankara’s 19 Mayıs Stadium on Thursday.
Brazilian midfielder Cristian Baroni is in good shape and the Canaries expect a lot from him at Kadıköy.
All efforts are being made to get the Fener walking wounded ready on or before match time. But if these efforts are not fruitful, then Fener coach Aykut Kocaman may have a hard time forming a team.
The Canaries, however, can take heart because they have not been beaten in the Super League at Şükrü Saracoğlu in 41 games -- 34 wins and seven draws.
They have not tasted defeat in the league at home since they were beaten 3-2 at home in week 22 of the 2009-10 season by eventual champion Bursaspor on Feb. 22, 2010. And they are not likely to lose to struggling Beşiktaş on Sunday.
Kick-off is at 7 p.m. The referee will be Halis Özkahya, and his assistants will be Mustafa Emre Eyisoy and Serkan Gençerler.