Fenerbahçe vs Galatasaray
Saturday 12th May 2012 @ 17:00 GMT
Prediction: Over 2.5 @ 1.80
The biggest day in the Turkish footballing calendar is back for the forth time this season 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 Intercontinental derby is always a special occasion however, Saturday's game is no ordinary derby. The weekends clash is being built up as the derby of derbies, a day which will go down in history as the most epic encounter of these footballing titans ever to be witnessed since the advent of professional football in Turkey.
The backdrop to the forthcoming game is nothing short of dramatic. Galatasaray went into the championship playoffs in pole position 5 points ahead of Fenerbahçe. However, following a surprise home loss to the Yellow Canaries and two successive draws the gap has been cut to a single point. This is far more than a derby, it will decide the 2011-12 champions in a winner takes all match.
Fenerbahçe the juggernauts of Turkish football, have done well to get where they have this season considering the drama they’ve been put through. The club chairman Aziz Yildirim was among the detainees arrested and held over suspected involvement in the ensuing match fixing investigation which rocked the country last summer. With high ranking Fener officials and board members drifting in and out of court custody it’s been a turbulent season. While most of those linked with the fixing allegation have been released, Aziz Yıldırım remains on trial facing charges of involvement in manipulating games and forming an unarmed criminal organization which intended to obtain financial income through sport.
Manager Aykut Kocaman will keep with Fener's customary 4-2-3-1 setup if Alex De Souza is available or will switch to a 4-3-3 formation if his injury rules him out. Kocaman faces a lot of 'what if's' going into this game. Moussa Sow may recover in time however, it's unlikely he'll be match fit. Semih or Bienvenu is likely to start upfront, with Alex sitting behind him if he plays. Otherwise, Stoch will start on the left and Topuz on the right. We have been critical of Baroni's defensive work however, since being given a more attacking role he has been much better and looks more comfortable. The Brazilian is likely to be joined by dynamic midfielder Emre and also Caner in midfield.
Galatsaray the titans of Turkish football, haven’t lifted a major trophy in three seasons and to make matters worse they’re coming off their worst season in club history. The Lions were in disarray and took radical action to try and change the fortunes of the club. Last summer, Unal Aysal was elected chairman, he reinstated legendary manager Fatih Terim. As well as bringing back Brazilian World Cup hero Claudio Taffarel and club legends Hasan Şaş, Ümit Davala & Tugay Kerimoğlu as coaches. The Lions followed this up by investing heavily in building a team which they hoped would bring back the glory years. In fact their whole season has been revolved around trying to recreate that spirit which made them a household name across Europe in the late 90's.
Terim is likely to field his customary 4-4-2 formation against Fenerbahçe. Ujfalusi and Semih Kaya will play in their usual centre back positions, Eboue will feature on the right with Balta starting on the left. Felipe Melo and Selçuk İnan will command the central midfield with İnan playing in a more forward position giving the Lions a loose diamond shape. Emre Çolak or Albert Riera are favorites to start in the left of midfield. Engin Baytar is expected to play on the right with Elmander and Necati upfront.
Fenerbahçe have had to overcome injuries to star striker Moussa Sow, Alex De Souza and even goalkeeper Volkan Demirel has had to play with eight stitches in his knee. Credit has to be given to the Canaries, they have shown a dogged nature and even in games they haven't exactly played beautiful football in they have managed to grind out the win. Fener go into the derby as the team in form, Volkan has been immense in goal and the team has showed great solidarity in coming together and playing as a cohesive team.
The playoffs haven't exactly gone to plan for Galatasaray, they have only collected 8 points out of a possible 15 while Fener have racked up 12 points. The Lions have been playing well and were unlucky to have not gotten at least a point against the Canaries in their last encounter especially considering they dominated the game. However, what at first appeared to be a one off issue is proving to be more serious. Galatasaray are struggling to finish their chances, the most effective attacking team in the regular season is struggling on the goal scoring front. Elmander has yet to score in the playoffs and Necati hasn't exactly been in prolific form. In fact the teams top scorer is midfield maestro Selçuk Inan with 13 goals and in joint second position Felipe Melo.
Fenerbahçe go into this game knowing that Galatasaray have not defeated them in the Şükrü Saracoğlu since 1999. The things is, Galatasaray don't need to win, they just need a point. Fenerbahçe have had a counter attacking approach in their matches against the Lions this season. The main problem the Canaries have had when playing an attacking style has been failing to provide the necessary cover when Gökhan Gönül gets forward, he provides width and is better when playing attacking minded however, it also leaves them vulnerable on the counter.
Another key match up will be between Eboue and Stoch, the Slovakian international rarely gets involved in defensive work and if he allows Eboue to drive up and down the wing it will leave Ziegler with his hands full. Eboue will also need to pay close attention to Stoch cutting in from the wing. Also Melo vs Alex will be where the midfield battle will be won or lost for either side. Melo will work hard to close down Alex and not give him space on the ball in attacking midfield positions. However, if Alex breaks lose he can wreck havoc as Galatasaray have found out over the past two derbies.
Kocaman will be attempting to tweak his tactics to try and gain the upper hand in midfield. In their encounters with Galatasaray so far this season they have been dominated possession wise and lost control of the center of the park. The Fenerbahçe manager will be fully aware that they have had to rely on wonder goals and made the most of the very few chances created. This is not a sustainable approach over the course of this many games against the same side.
Galatasaray will be without Fatih Terim on the touchline as he has been banned by the Professional Discipline Football Committee. The absence of Terim is a huge blow, the legendary Turkish manager is renowned for his half time tactical chances, motivational speeches and installing confidence in his players.
Despite their poor form over the past decade in the Şükrü Saracoğlu Galatasaray go into the derby with the extra point. They are the most well balanced team in the league, have the most accomplished manager in Turkey and have advantages in key areas over Fener. Fenerbahçe will undoubtedly make this a tough game and the home support is going to be absolutely incredible. A draw is out of the question for Fenerbahçe and they have caused opposition sides a lot of damage with their opening twenty minutes home blitz which they unleashed with great effect on Galatasaray earlier in the season. The Canaries will have to take risks while Galatasaray won't sit back as their strength is in controlling the midfield. Galatasaray will find space on the break and have players capable of exploiting Fener if they play a high line. Fenerbahçe meanwhile have been clinical infront of goal against the Lions throughout the year. Every Intercontinental derby this year has gone Over 2.5 goals, I expect this trend to continue.
Predicting Over 2.5 goals
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Head to Head: 97 - 89 - 76
Weather Conditions: Sunny, 20°C