Galatasaray vs Fenerbahçe
Sunday 22nd April 2012 @ 17:00 GMT
Türk Telekom Arena stadium
Prediction: Galatasaray -0 @ 1.60
The biggest day in the Turkish footballing calendar is back sooner than expected thanks to the introduction of the Super Final Champions playoffs. The day East meets West, Galatasaray heralding from the European side of Istanbul take on Fenerbahçe representing the Asian half of the city in the mother of all Turkish footballing derbies, the Kitalar Arası Derby (The Intercontinental derby). They say football is more than just a game well in this case it really is, there are no words which can describe the level of passion, crazed excitement and sheer fanaticism this match creates, it’s a derby which just has to be experienced, this is a footballing spectacle which should be on the 'to do list' of every lover of the beautiful game.
The Lions got their playoff campaign off to the best possible start, their victory over Beşiktaş in the intimidating İnönü stadium was their first away win against the Black Eagles since 2006. Fatih Terim's men were lined up in his preferred 4-4-2 setup. Terim made a bold call in choosing to play Albert Riera and Felipe Melo following their training ground bust up however, both players had a successful game and even linked up well for the first goal. Ujfalusi and Semih Kaya played in their usual centre back position, Eboue was on the right and Balta started on the left. Felipe Melo and Selçuk İnan commanded the central midfield with İnan playing in a more forward position giving the Lions a loose diamond shape. Riera played on the left of midfield with Baytar on the right. Elmander started upfront with Necati however, dropped deep from time to time giving Galatasaray additional support in midfield and dragging his marker out of position.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Galatasaray this season has been the standard of their defending. The Lions have the best defensive record in the league having only conceded 24 goals in 35 games. Ujfalusi and Semih Kaya have a great chemistry and along with goalkeeper Fernando Muslera they have created a defensive fortress. A special mention has to be made for Muslera, the Uruguayan international has been displaying his world class credentials all season and has managed to keep an astonishing 17 clean sheets already. The Lions defensive prowess was put on show against Beşiktaş, despite the Black Eagles keeping the majority of possession, apart from two shots on goal in the first half they were forced into taking speculative long shots for the rest of the game and rarely put Galatasaray under any real danger.
Fenerbahçe will also be delighted with their start, the Yellow Canaries comprehensively beat Trabzonspor. In fact the Black Sea giants didn't stand a chance, the difference in quality was evident. Fenerbahçe took the lead thanks to an impressive long range drive by Baroni and doubled their lead in the 61st minute with a well-executed Moussa Sow goal. It appears that Aykut Kocaman has learned from his prior mistakes and has instructed his team to keep on applying pressure even after taking a two goal lead. The young manager had come under fire for letting his players take their foot off the gas after taking a lead and allowing opposition sides back into the game. The most glaring example being the last Intercontinental derby when Fener took a two goal lead within 15 minutes before switching off and getting dominated by Galatasaray from the 30th minute onwards.
Aykut Kocaman will be starting with Fener's customary 4-2-3-1 setup, however, the absence of Emre Belözoğlu could prove to be a game changer. His likely replacement is Selçuk Şahin, not even half the player Emre is. Fener will miss Emre's passing, dynamism and work rate in the midfield and face the possibility of getting totally overrun by the likes of Melo, Selçuk and Elmander when he drops deep. Attacking wise, the likes of legendary captain Alex De Souza, Miroslav Stoch and Moussa Sow are capable of creating something out of nothing and will always pose a danger. We have been critical of Baroni's defensive work however, since been given a more attacking role he has been much better and looks more comfortable. He passes well, has good vision and if given space he has the ability to punish teams with long range shots.
Kocaman faces a dilemma going into this game, Fener are 5 points behind Galatasaray and cannot afford to lose. He will be fully aware that his side lost the last derby in the midfield. Without Emre it's going to be even more of a struggle, Alex isn't the type of player to charge around and close down the opposition, Stoch tends not to get stuck in either and we've already spoken about Baroni's defensive frailties. Galatasaray have Melo who has been brilliant in the midfield, the tenacious midfielder will be intent at minimizing the amount of time and space Fener get in midfield. Selcuk Inan also closes down well, as does Elmander and Engin Baytar. One of the Lions key strengths this season has been their work rate and with the crowd behind them, on home turf they tend to try even harder.
Fatih Terim has made no secret that his side will be going for the win, I touched on Galatasaray's impressive defensive displays this season, however, they also have the league's most potent attack. The Lions have scored the highest number of goals this season and most impressively they haven't been solely reliant on a single player. I mean even Felipe Melo has racked up 11 goals this season. Elmander has given his best performances in the big derbies, 5 of his 12 goals have come against the other three playoff teams and he is bound to cause Fener problems in Sunday's derby.
The clash of the Turkish footballing titans is approaching. The pressure across Istanbul is rising as this derby could go a long way to decide who will be this seasons champions. A win for Galatasaray would put them 8 points ahead and bar a total meltdown in the last few weeks they would be in great position to lift the title. A draw would be more acceptable from a Fener point of view as if Galatasaray slip up against Trabzonspor away, the Yellow Canaries will have the chance to win the league against the Lions on home ground. The tickets for the derby have already sold out, every single seat in 52,652 capacity Türk Telekom Arena stadium will be full. I can't guarantee a great game but what everyone can be 100% sure of is that the atmosphere is going to be electric, in fact I would even recommend watching the game just to see the sheer passion and intensity of the game. Also make sure to tune into the game a few minutes early as Galatasaray supporter group, 'ultrAslan' are preparing to dazzle us all with a specially choreographed display.
Now back to the game - The Lions have not lost a derby this season and their key players have given their best performances in these big games, expect the likes of Melo, Elmander, Selcuk and co to rise to the occasion. Fener will provide a danger on the counter attack and whenever they get the ball into the feet of Alex and Stoch. However, Galatasaray have the edge going into this game and if they win the key midfield battle like they did in the last derby the Yellow Canaries will be in for a very tough time in trying to keep them out.
Recent Form: DDWWW
Recent Form: DWDWW
Head to Head: 76 - 89 - 96
Weather Conditions: Sunny, 18°C