Match-weary Fenerbahçe, aka the Yellow Canaries, is in very high spirits ahead of the Ziraat Turkish Cup semifinal against Kardemir Karabükspor at Ankara’s 19 Mayıs Stadium on Thursday, having beaten avowed İstanbul rival Galatasaray 2-1 in a Super Final thriller at Türk Telekom Arena on Sunday.
With that victory, Fenerbahçe reduced the gap between it and Galatasaray to a meager two points, and it also put the Canaries firmly back in contention for the 2011-12 Spor Toto Super League championship.
The Yellow Canaries are the winningest team in the Turkish league’s 53-year history with 18 championships to its credit. But in the Turkish Cup, the Canaries are lightweights, having lifted the trophy only four times since the inception of the competition in 1962.
And the most interesting thing is that they last won the cup in 1982-83, almost three decades ago. With the league title also within reach, the Canaries aim to break the Turkish Cup hoodoo this season.
And as the other top-four members -- Galatasaray, Trabzonspor and Beşiktaş -- have already been sent packing in the cup competition, the Canaries stand a chance of winning it this season and clinching a rare league and cup double for the first time in 30 years.
Volkan makes promise to Yıldırım
Fenerbahçe keeper Volkan Demirel on Tuesday visited Chairman Aziz Yıldırım at Metris jail in İstanbul, where he is incarcerated pending further trial in the ongoing match-fixing case, and promised the chairman they will win the elusive league and cup double.
“I promised our chairman [Yıldırım] that we will lift the league and cup trophies together. But if, due to unforeseen circumstances, we can’t lift the trophies together, then I will bring them here [to Metris Prison],” he said.
Fener coach Aykut Kocaman, whose team will be hosting Beşiktaş in the Super Cup this weekend, has a lot of walking wounded to attend to. Senegal striker Moussa Sow, who suffered a knock in Sunday’s match against Galatasaray, is out for the season.
Nigerian defender Joseph Yobo, defender Bekir İrtegün, captain-playmaker Alex de Souza and midfielder Mehmet Topuz -- who are nursing various forms of injuries -- missed Tuesday’s practice sessions. Midfielder Emre Belözoğlu has been suspended over a racial slur.
Kocaman may opt to preserve his ailing players for the Super Final this weekend and field a weakened team against Kardemir Karabükspor. In that case, he may start with Miroslav Stoch and Henri Bienvenu upfront, with Issiar Dia and Caner Erkin manning the flanks.
But the fact of the matter is that starting with players who are not acclimated to each other could backfire.
‘Tournament of upsets’
The one-legged Turkish Cup is a competition in which minnows love to torment heavyweights and send them home with their heads bowed. Dubbed the “tournament of upsets,” the history of the Turkish Cup is full of all kinds of upset stories.
This season, Beşiktaş was eliminated by Bank Asya (second-division) side Boluspor, and Galatasaray was humiliated at home by Sivasspor -- a team it had beaten at home and away in the Spor Toto Super League.
Fenerbahçe’s elimination in the third round of the 1999 cup competition by second-division Pendikspor and second-division Erzurumspor ousting Galatasaray from the competition in 2001 are just a few of the outstanding upsets in Turkish Cup history.
And Kardemir Karabükspor Chairman Nevzat Şahin thinks his Black Sea side can spring a surprise in Ankara on Thursday.
“We want to beat Fenerbahçe neat and clear and advance to the final of the Ziraat Turkish Cup,” Şahin said. “And we are going to Ankara with this in mind. Our morale and concentration are sky high. It is going to be an interesting and thrilling encounter,” he added.
A victor must emerge in the one-legged semifinal in the capital on Thursday. If the score is tied at full time, a 30-minute extra time will be played, and if the match is still deadlocked, a penalty shootout will decide the winner.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the referee will be Tolga Özkalfa; his assistants will be Cem Satman and Hakan Yemişken.