Front-runners Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray face crucial matches in week five of the Super Final on Sunday, with Galatasaray hosting Beşiktaş at Türk Telekom Arena and Fenerbahçe slugging it out with Trabzonspor at Hüseyin Avni Aker Stadium in Trabzon.
So important are these matches that both are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. to guard against any kind of speculation. Galatasaray, or the Lions, were unstoppable during the regular season of the Spor Toto Super League when it finished first with nine points ahead of closest rival Fenerbahçe. And with the points garnered in the regular season divided into two during the Super Final, the Lions began the four-team playoffs with a five-point advantage.
But after the Lions were beaten 2-1 in week two at home by Fenerbahçe, on the Sunday before last, and held 0-0 by Trabzonspor on Wednesday, their five-point lead evaporated into thin air and their advantage went down the drain. However, Fenerbahçe losing 1-0 at Beşiktaş the following day meant Galatasaray now has a three-point lead with two weeks to go.
Trabzonspor, whose championship chances have gone with the wind, needs to finish third and qualify for the UEFA Europa League next season since finishing fourth would mean qualifying for this second-tier European competition through another playoff in a really complicated system.
And with fourth-place Beşiktaş now breathing heavily down its neck after the victory over Fener, Trabzonspor cannot afford to stumble at Avni Aker on Sunday.
Fenerbahçe missed a golden opportunity to go top of the Super Final standings after the İnönü debacle on Thursday and therefore faces a must-win situation at Trabzon. And the simple reason is that if Fenerbahçe drops points Avni Aker on Sunday, Galatasaray will be crowned champion if it can overcome Beşiktaş at TT Arena on the same day, and the finale between Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray next weekend at Kadıköy will be reduced to a mere formality.
If Galatasaray loses at home and Fenerbahçe beats Trabzonspor on the road, then the Kadıköy match will determine the champion.
Beşiktaş is in high spirits after Thursday’s home victory over Fenerbahçe. And the Portuguese battalion at Beşiktaş -- comprising playmaker Ricardo Quaresma, winger Simao Sabrosa, striker Hugo Almeida and all-rounder Manuel Fernandes -- played their best football of the season. If they can display the same virtuoso performance at TT Arena, they stand a good chance against Galatasaray.
Fener captain-playmaker Alex de Souza, who has just recovered from injury, was one of the worst players on the pitch in the match against Beşiktaş. Nonetheless, Fenerbahçe and anyone associated with the club are still counting on Alex to motivate the team.
Trabzonspor, on the other hand, will be banking on star striker Burak Yılmaz to deliver the goods. Burak played for the first time after nose surgery against Galatasaray on Wednesday and was a thorn in the flesh of Galatasaray. With Burak upfront, the Fenerbahçe defenders cannot afford to sleepwalk.
Europa group games
In the Super Final Europa League playoffs on Sunday, Eskişehirspor hosts İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor and Bursaspor entertains Sivasspor. İstanbul BB leads the four-team group with 32 points, followed by Bursaspor with 30, Eskişehirspor with 29 and Sivasspor with 28. The matches kick off at 3 p.m.