All roads lead to Türk Telekom Arena in Şişli, İstanbul, where leader Galatasaray will be slugging it out with second-placed Fenerbahçe in week two of the Super Final on Sunday evening.
Any encounter between avowed İstanbul rivals Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe -- wherever or whenever it is played -- is always a very difficult and dangerous affair and that’s the very reason why it has been dubbed “the mother of all derbies” by the local sports media.
Sunday’s clash at the Arena will not in any way be different. The pressure, without the slightest doubt, will be on the Yellow Canaries -- nickname of Fenerbahçe -- who trail Galatasaray -- popularly called the Lions -- by five points going into this match.
The Yellow Canaries beat Trabzonspor 2-0 at home in their Super Final opener last Saturday, while the Lions defeated embattled Beşiktaş by the same score away at Fiyapı İnönü Stadium on Monday. This means there is no change at the top of the table.
But change is expected at the Arena on Sunday because the Canaries need victory at all costs to reduce the gap between them and Galatasaray or they can start to forget about winning the Super Final and clinching the 2011-12 championship.
The Lions, who will be playing in front of their chanting and flag-waving fans, will also be aiming for outright victory to increase the gap at the top to eight points and virtually seal the championship. A draw for the Lions, even though that is not what they really need, would not be a bad result bearing in mind that Fatih Terim’s men have a five-point advantage.
There are three options in Sunday’s game: win, draw or lose. But the fact of the matter is that the winner may go on to win the title because it must have cleared an important psychological barrier.
Fenerbahçe has a superior record over Galatasaray in the “mother of all derbies.” What’s interesting, though, is that the Canaries have not beaten the Lions this season. They lost 3-1 to Galatasaray at the Arena in the first half of the Spor Toto Super League on Dec. 7 and drew 2-2 at home in the second half on March 17.
Battle of tactics
Most of the battle on Sunday is expected to be around midfield, with Felipe Melo and Selçuk İnan doing all the donkey work for Galatasaray, and on-form Cristian Baroni and Mehmet Topuz doing likewise for the Canaries.
Terim and Aykut Kocaman both want to do the talking on the pitch and are therefore letting others do the talking this week. After all, Turks say “Ağzı olan konuşuyor,” meaning “anyone who has a mouth speaks.”
Fenerbahçe defender Bekir İrtegün seem-ed to be gloating. “We have beaten Galatasaray many a time on their home turf,” he said. “We beat them in their first derby at the Arena and we so can beat them again.”
Fenerbahçe captain-playmaker Alex de Souza likes to score against Galatasaray and has found the back of the net eight times in 18 outings against the Lions. If Alex scores one more goal, he will equal the number of goals current coach Kocaman had scored against the Lions during his playing days.
Senegal striker Moussa Sow is also scoring these days and winning matches for the Canaries. If the Senegalese can find his form, then the Galatasaray defense could be in trouble.
Fener midfielder Emre Belöz-oğlu, badly involved in an “N-word” controversy, missed training sessions this week and will almost certainly be absent at the Arena. The club has distanced itself from Emre’s action, something that could be translated as Emre’s days at the İstanbul club being numbered.
Elmander and Necati
If the Canaries have Alex, the Lions have Sweden forward Johan Elmander. The Swede has not scored yet after returning from injury, but nonetheless remains the team’s danger man. Thirty-something Necati Ateş, re-acquired by Galatasaray from Antalyaspor during the January transfer window, is also in good shape and still capable of causing serious harm.
“We are playing well,” young Galatasaray defender Semih Kaya said on Thursday. “We have overcome Beşiktaş and if we also defeat Fenerbahçe, then everything will turn in our favor. This match is important for us and for our club. We will play good football [on Sunday] and also beat Fenerbahçe,” he asserted.
Fenerbahçe fans are banned from attending this match and so their players will be at the receiving end of the boisterous Galatasaray supporters, who will be swearing and cursing throughout the match.
“This is not the first derby, nor will it be the last,” said Galatasaray Executive Board member Abdurrahim Albayrak on Thursday. “We have not been ordered to play behind closed doors [this season] because our fans are gentlemen and behave in a gentlemanly manner. We as the administrators are proud of them and are also very confident that they will be of their best behavior on Sunday,” he noted.
But the saddest thing is that Galatasaray-Fenerbahçe clashes are never compatible with the principles of respect. And so anyone who expects respect at the Arena on Monday is dead wrong.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the referee will be Fırat Aydınus.