Fenerbahçe missed a golden chance of drawing level with defending champion Galatasaray in the Spor Toto Super League last Saturday, when it could only manage a 1-1 away draw with Ersun Yanal’s Eskişehirspor.
The Yellow Canaries (5-5-2) will therefore be aiming to make amends for the two points they dropped at Eskişehir when they entertain on-form Ankara representative Gençlerbirliği (4-6-2) in week 13 at Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium in Kadıköy on Sunday evening.
Last Saturday was a day that the Canaries would like to forget as soon as possible after referee Fırat Aydınus sent off winger Caner Erkin for no just cause. And if that was not enough, Eskişehirspor was awarded a controversial penalty. That match is over but the reverberations continue to rumble. And the maligned Aydınus, reports say, is considering hanging up his whistle due to threats.
The fact of the matter, though, is that Gençlerbirliği is no spring chicken and therefore the Canaries should not expect an easy ride. Just two points separate Aykut Kocaman’s Fenerbahçe (20) and Fuat Çapa’s Gençler (18), and this serves to show that the two teams seem very evenly matched.
Furthermore, the Canaries were in action on Thursday when they took on Ligue 1’s Olympic Marseille in a tough UEFA Europa League Group C match. Kocaman’s men thus returned to İstanbul weak and exhausted and only had two days to prepare for the match against Gençler.
This is a huge disadvantage for the Canaries and Gençlerbirliği will try to capitalize on it just as struggling Kardemir Karabükspor did against Galatasaray last Friday, beating the match-weary Lions 3-1 at the Arena in Şişli.
Senegal striker Moussa Sow, with six goals to his credit in the league this season, will be a sure starter for the Canaries and Kocaman will almost certainly bring in Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt to partner Sow upfront.
Mehmet Topal and on-form Selçuk Şahin will again be doing all the donkey work in midfield, while veteran Nigerian Joseph Yobo, who has fully recovered from injury, will be orchestrating the defense.
The bad news for Çapa is that his team has been hard-hit with injuries. Right back Serkan Kurtuluş underwent surgery this week while Serbia midfielder Radosav Petrovic went to his homeland for treatment. Nigeria center forward Ekigho Ehiosun, Ankara-born midfielder Cem Can and Belgian-born midfielder Ferhat Çapa were still receiving treatment and so missed practice sessions this week.
Despite the odds, Çapa and his men -- Dutch-born defensive midfielder Muhammet Aykut Demir in particular -- sounded optimistic. “We will be going to İstanbul to win,” Aykut said. “With this in mind, we want to return from İstanbul with our heads held high.”
İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor, which drew 1-1 at home with cellar-dweller Sanica Boru Elazığspor during coach Bülent Korkmaz’s debut last Saturday, faces a real toughie away against Gaziantepspor at Kamıl Ocak Stadium on Sunday.
The other match of the day pits Rıza Çalımbay’s Sivasspor against visiting Kayserispor at 4 Eylül Stadium.
Sunday’s fixtures at a glance
16:00 Gaziantep-İstanbul BB (ref Bülent Yıldırım)
19:00 Sivasspor-Kayserispor (Mustafa K. Abitoğlu)
19:00 Fenerbahçe-Gençlerbirliği (Yunus Yıldırım)