Galatasaray scent glory as Turkish league goes to wire

Istanbul (AFP) –


Turkish football fans are bracing themselves for a thrilling finale to the Super Lig season on Saturday with three Istanbul teams still in contention.

Leaders Galatasaray need just a point to snare the title, but second-placed Fenerbahce and third-placed Basaksehir both have a chance of grabbing first place in the 34th and final round of games.

Galatasaray, who have made a late surge under former Turkey national coach Fatih Terim, are on 72 points with Fenerbahce and Basaksehir on 69.

Besiktas, champions in the last two seasons, are a point further adrift and cannot complete a historic hat-trick of Super Lig championships, but could still take second place and qualify for next season's Champions League.

Galatasaray need a win or a draw in an away match at Izmir side Goztepe to win what would be their 21st league title.

But with Goztepe sitting sixth after a solid season, the visit to the Aegean coast will not be easy for Galatasaray.

Fenerbahce and Basaksehir have home games against Konyaspor and Kasimpasa respectively.

If Galatasaray lose and one or both of their rivals win -- leaving them level on points -- a complex variety of outcomes are on offer.

- 'Play like champions' -

The first Super Lig tie-breaker is the head-to-head record of the sides who have finished level on points.

After that, it goes to goal difference, then goals scored.

Both games between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce ended 0-0. Goal difference is currently equal and since Fener would have to win and Galatasary lose to create a tie, Fenerbahce would have the edge.

If Galatasaray and Basaksehir end level on points, Basaksehir have the upper hand thanks to a 5-1 thrashing of their rivals in November. And should all three end on equal points, Basaksehir will also win the title.

"We are just one point from the championship. But at Goztepe we must play like the champions and win," Terim was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet daily.

Besiktas, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce have traditionally dominated football in Istanbul and Turkey but this season has marked the arrival of Basaksehir as contenders.

Derided by critics as a pro-government team with a tiny support base and no traditions, Basaksehir have impressed with players of the calibre of former Arsenal stars Gael Clichy and Emmanuel Adebayor.

The season has been marked by controversy, notably when Besiktas refused to show up at a resumption of a Turkish Cup game against Fenerbahce abandoned when their coach was hurt by an object thrown from the stands.

But player behaviour has been as much as a problem as crowd trouble and this month Basaksehir's Turkish star Arda Turan, on loan from Barcelona, was banned for a record 16 games after shoving an assistant referee.