Match-fixing trial eclipses Galatasaray-Beşİktaş derby

Match-fixing trial eclipses Galatasaray-Beşİktaş derby

Galatasaray’s Sweden striker Johan Elmander (C) is tackled by Beşiktaş defenders during their week 11 match at İstanbul’s Fiyapı İnönü Stadium on Nov. 20, 2011. The game ended exactly the way it started: 0-0. (PHOTO aa)

February 26, 2012, Sunday/ 10:49:00/ OKAN UDO BASSEY

The talk of the town this week has not been the Galatasaray-Beşiktaş derby at Türk Telekom Arena on Sunday, but rather Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım’s defense -- or more accurately “attack” -- in the ongoing match-fixing trial in Silivri, İstanbul.

Yıldırım had promised to present a solid defense against every charge directed against him in the prosecutor’s indictment. But he did very little of that at the İstanbul 16th High Criminal Court this week.

The Fener chairman, instead of rebutting the charges leveled against him, launched a scathing attack on everybody and blamed everyone except himself.

This defense, in a nutshell, fell far short of expectations, and that’s what people in Turkey -- from top to bottom -- were discussing this week, as is evident from the extensive coverage of the matter on radio and television.

Derby relegated to second place

The Galatasaray-Beşiktaş derby has unfortunately been relegated to second place. But the fact of the matter is that, come what may, this match will take place in İstanbul on Sunday.

Super League leader Galatasaray, aka the Lions, which beat newcomer Mersin İdman Yurdu 3-1 away in week 27 last Friday, has not played a single match since. The Lions must therefore be well rested and ready for Sunday’s derby.

The Black Eagles, as Beşiktaş is popularly known, will be playing four competitive games in 12 days on Sunday and should be suffering from match-weariness.

The Eagles beat Braga 2-0 away in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg last Tuesday, came from behind to overcome Ankara’s Gençlerbirliği 3-2 in the domestic Super League last Sunday, took on Braga in the Europa League second leg on Thursday and will be slugging it out with Galatasaray in their İstanbul derby at the Arena on Sunday.

Beşiktaş’s Portuguese coach Carlos Carvalhal expressed anger over this “unfair competition” after his team scraped past Gençler at home last Sunday. “Our rival [Galatasaray] played on Friday and therefore watched us play [Gençlerbirliği] on Sunday,” the Portuguese trainer said.

“They will as watch us play on Thursday. And if Galatasaray had injured players [last] Friday, they would have had eight-nine days to heal, whereas we would only have three. [On Sunday] we will be playing our fourth match in 12 days,” he added.

There is always no pre-match favorite whenever or wherever Galatasaray and Beşiktaş are at issue, and so no one is gloating. “This is going to be a classic Galatasaray-Beşiktaş derby and I hope we win,” said Galatasaray’s Sweden striker Johan Erik Calvin Elmander. “I think I am getter better. But whether I play or not will be decided on or before match time,” added the Swede, who was injured in Mersin last Sunday.

No pre-match favorite

Elmander trained with the team this week, and so did winger Engin Baytar, who also suffered a knock last Sunday, as well as long-term injury case Yekta Kurtuluş, who appears to have fully recovered.

Brazil defensive midfielder Felipe Melo, on loan from Juventus, who was suspended last Sunday due to an accumulation of yellow cards, will definitely take his place at the Arena. Striker Necati Ateş, who returned to Galatasaray from Antalyaspor during the January transfer window, is playing very well and banging in the goals. Necati, too, is a sure starter.

But Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim is very likely to exclude injury-prone and undisciplined Czech striker Milan Baros, even though he has served out his three-match suspension for cursing at a referee.

Beşiktaş’s Slovakia forward Filip Holosko also chose his words very carefully: “Of course Galatasaray is in top form and also a very tough opponent. But we, like Galatasaray, are also in dire need of wins and points to make things easy for ourselves in the playoffs. We will therefore give it our all in Sunday’s match,” he stated.

Last Sunday’s win over Antep, however, turned into a Pyrrhic victory for the Eagles because they lost their best player, Portuguese midfielder Manuel Fernandes, through suspension for an accumulation of yellow cards and 22-year-old left back Tanju Kayhan through injury. So the lovable “Portuguese gang” at Beşiktaş will be missing a key player, Fernandes. But captain-playmaker Ricardo Quaresma, striker Hugo Almeida and winger Simao Sabrosa will all be present.

Storm back home

Trabzonspor, or the Black Sea Storm, fresh from its Europa League adventure at PSV Eindhoven, hosts Mersin İdman Yurdu in the domestic league at Hüseyin Avni Aker on Sunday.

Top scorer Burak Yılmaz, with 29 goals to his credit, is expected to score more against “relegation-bound” Mersin and pass the 30-goal mark

Sunday’s fixtures at a glance

13:00 İstanbul BB vs. Antalya (ref Barış Şimşek)

13:00 Gençlerbirliği-Sivasspor (Süleyman Abay)

16:00 Trabzonspor-Mersin (Yunus Yıldırım)

19:00 Galatasaray-Beşiktaş (Fırat Aydınus)

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