A resurging Fenerbahçe also faces a tricky task today as the Yellow Canaries will be slugging it out with inconsistent but gritty Ankaragücü in the capital’s 19 Mayıs Stadium.
The Storm (11-3-1) is enjoying its best season in 15 years. Never since the 1995-96 season, when Trabzonspor garnered 38 points in 14 games, has it matched its current achievement. This evening Trabzon coach Şenol Güneş and his men will be striving to add İstanbul BŞB to their casualty list.
Young Aykut Kocaman and his Fener Yellow Canaries (9-3-3), after a poor start to the season in which they were pilloried from all sides by the doomsayers, have relearned the art of winning. And they have won three in a row, beating newcomer Bucaspor 5-2 in week 13, then following up with a 1-0 victory over İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor in their week 14 “mini” İstanbul derby and defeating visiting Black Sea side Kardemir Karabükspor 2-1 last weekend.
With 30 points from 15 games the Canaries are currently championship material and are hot on the heels of defending champion Bursaspor and leader Trabzonspor.
“From the look of things, it does not seem possible for us to lead the league at the halfway point,” Kocaman said. “But it does not matter because nothing is won or lost at this stage of the competition. We want to stay in the leading pack and aim for a happy ending,” he pointed out.
However, life is not a bed of roses for the Yellow Canaries. With Senegal striker Mamadou Niang performing below par after returning from injury and his compatriot, Issiar Dia, failing to sparkle, the goal-scoring job has become the sole responsibility of Brazilian captain-playmaker Alex de Souza.
The Brazilian scored one of Fener’s two goals against Kardemir Karabükspor last weekend to take his tally to 12 this season and stay in contention for the goal-king crown. If Alex plays well, the Yellow Canaries can rest assured of victory over Ankaragücü -- a team that wears the same yellow-navy blue colors as the Canaries.
Ankara (4-5-6) drew 1-1 at home with Sivasspor last weekend. But the Ankara side, more often than not, performs better against quality opposition. Hence, the Canaries cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the referee will be Kuddusi Müftüoğlu.
Trabzonspor has one of the best attacks in the Super League and the best defense; and in the 15 matches played thus far the Black Sea Storm has scored 34 while conceding only nine.
Every player on the Trabzon team is capable of scoring. Strikers Umut Bulut and Brazilian Jaja score, so do midfielders Argentine Gustavo Alejandro Colman, Selçuk İnan, Burak Yılmaz and co.
How the mediocre İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor, missing four defenders due to injury, will be able to cope with the fleet-footed Trabzonspor forwards is a different story altogether.
Nothing good comes easy
But this is none of Güneş’s business. In other words the coach, who welcomes back Burak who was suspended last weekend due to an accumulation of yellow cards, is not concerned one bit about İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor’s woes.
“We are approaching the halfway point of the season and the going’s getting tougher,” Güneş said. “What is easily won is easily lost, so we have to succeed the hard way by making the impossible possible. We will set ourselves targets and try to accomplish them. And the first is to finish as leader at the season’s halfway point,” he asserted.
But do not expect İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor to lie face down and allow the Storm to roll all over them. It is going to be a tough match for both teams, no doubt about it. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. and the match will be refereed by Bülent Yıldırım.
Other fixtures: Sivasspor vs. Konyaspor (2 p.m.) and Gaziantepspor vs. Kayserispor (5 p.m.). Eskişehir beat visiting Beşiktaş 2-0 on Friday.