Samsunspor coach Mesut Bakkal, without a doubt, is having sleepless nights these days because he and his team face an uphill struggle for survival in topflight Turkish football at 19 Mayıs Stadium on Saturday, when they will host Sivasspor in the 2011-12 Spor Toto Super League regular season finale.
Newcomer Samsunspor had been declared dead and buried ahead of its away clash last Sunday with “mighty” Beşiktaş in the penultimate week (week 33) at Fiyapı İnönü Stadium.
A draw in that match would have sent Samsun crashing to the ground like Humpty Dumpty, but the gutsy Black Sea side stunned Beşiktaş 1-0, thereby making a mockery of gravity.
And after Medical Park Antalyaspor, Sivasspor’s relegation rival, lost 2-1 at home to 2009-10 champion Bursaspor, it meant the dogfight against the drop would go down to the wire this weekend.
The Samsunspor players and technical staff have had broad smiles on their faces during training sessions this week at the Nuri Asan facilities. But the interesting thing is that the fate of third-from-last Samsunspor -- which currently trails No. 15 Antalyaspor by three points -- is no longer in its own hands, but in those of Fenerbahçe.
In other words, Samsunspor beating Sivasspor might not be enough for the survival of Bakkal’s men; championship contender Fenerbahçe has to beat visiting Medical Park Antalyaspor at Kadıköy on the same day for Samsun to stay alive and for Antalyaspor to go down.
Nevertheless, the mood at the Samsun practice sessions this week was that of exhilarating optimism. And it seemed as if the Black Sea side had already survived relegation, to the extent that Bakkal expressed sorrow for former Portuguese Beşiktaş coach Carlos Carvalhal, who was given his marching orders on Monday in the wake of his team’s defeat by Samsunspor on Sunday.
“Carvalhal came to Turkey as the coach of Beşiktaş, and that’s indeed a very good position [in Turkish football],” Bakkal said. “I wish he had stayed on, and I don’t think he was booted because of the defeat by us. He has won our hearts, nonetheless. And whether he was successful or not, it is the decision of the Beşiktaş club, and therefore must be respected,” he noted.
Samsunspor is very confident it can send Sivasspor home empty-handed on Saturday, and no one in the club has any doubts in their minds about this coming true -- the most optimistic, of course, is Bakkal.
“I said last week, ‘We shall be born again,’ and still stand by what I said before,” Bakkal asserted.
“We know what we said, and there can be no turning back. It’s no use dwelling on the past. For us, the city of Samsun and its people, this is a very important match. Everyone understands this, and so there is no need to do lots of mathematics. We expect massive support from our fans and are sure everyone will exceed their limits [to give us the much-needed backing],” he underlined. “In the last 10 matches, we have won six, drawn one and lost three. This is a very good performance, and we have now arrived somewhere. This team will survive and only has to exert more effort [on Saturday] than it did in the last 10 games for this to materialize. This is a point of no return,” he said.
Samsun, undoubtedly, will be keeping an eye on Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium on Saturday, where second-place Fenerbahçe will be slugging it out with Antalyaspor.
“Under normal circumstances, Fenerbahçe shouldn’t have any difficulty beating Medical Park Antalyaspor. However, everyone had expected Beşiktaş to beat us [last Sunday], but we emerged as the winners. In football, it is very difficult to determine the outcome of a match before it is played. We will have to create our own success story,” Bakkal added.
In the final analysis, Mehmet Özdilek’s Medical Park Antalyaspor stands a better chance of surviving because it only needs a draw in İstanbul to stay in the Spor Toto Super League, while Samsunspor needs an outright victory at home.
Ankaragücü and Aegean side Manisaspor have already gone down, and they will be joined by either Samsunspor or Medical Park Antalyaspor on Saturday.
If Samsunspor survives the drop, Bakkal can be very sure of a job next season. But if the Black Sea side falters, then the much-traveled coach -- who had previously trained the Denizlispor youth team, Denizlispor, Ankaragücü, Gençlerbirliği, Gaziantepspor, Manisaspor and Sivasspor -- could be out in the streets again looking for a new job.
Final week fixtures
20:00 Karabükspor vs. Beşiktaş
15:30 Ankaragücü vs. Kayserispor
19:00 Fenerbahçe vs. Antalyaspor
19:00 Samsunspor vs. Sivasspor
19:00 Eskişehirspor vs. Mersin
19:00 Bursaspor vs. Gaziantepspor
19:00 İstanbul BB vs. Gençlerbirliği
15:30 Orduspor vs.Trabzonspor
19.00 Manisaspor vs. Galatasaray