Like the cute kitty in the picture (which was taken in the UEFA Cup final in Sükrü Saracoglu, Istanbul), the Turkish League season is going up the stairs as it is the last game-week next Saturday.
With only nine games to be played in two days, there are still three candidates for the championship, Besiktas being the strongest favorites, Sivasspor trailing, and Trabzonspor looking for those two to fall off. This definitely adds excitement to the closing days of an extraordinary season.
The extraordinary-ness is caused by the lack of presence of Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray in this fight for the top spot.
Sivasspor being the fire cracker of this season and the previous one, Trabzonspor, too are hanging in the top spots which they have failed to appear for around 20 years. Besiktas is the team with most number of titles after Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray but they have failed to keep up with the challenge in the previous years.
They have not managed to win the league since their centennial year, which was in 2003. Since then they failed to keep it up.
Besiktas started the league in an acceptable form but their elimination in the UEFA Cup caused a change in managerial position. Ertugrul Saglam was replaced with Mustafa Denizli, who had won the league title in Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe in the past.
If next week's games come up with no surprise, he will be the first manager to lift the league trophy with the top three fliers of Turkish football. Him being a native manager adds to that.
Ertugrul Saglam, who has been sacked after Metalist Kharkiv knocked his team out, is now in control of Besiktas' fierce rivals, Bursaspor, and he is still fighting for the last spot for European Cups next season.
Galatasaray who also chose to sack their manager after a heavy loss in a league game against Kocaeli, replaced Skibbe with their loyal and beloved ex-captain, Bülent Korkmaz. He was lucky to knock out Bordeaux just as soon as he took the throne but was eliminated by Hamburg in the next round, rather dramatically at home ground.
Bülent Korkmaz's place is under threat right now following a bad streak of results in the league who put them in fifth position, Paul Le Guen rumoured to be his replacement next season.
Fenerbahçe meanwhile struggled to beat the low profile teams in the league while almost dominating his games they played with the top-six teams in the league. They failed to fight on the pitch, both home and away and lost unbelievable number of points in the last minutes of their games.
Aragones is the name discussed more than anyone else. Fenerbahçe board resisted sacking him despite the common pressure, it is rumoured that the huge financial compensation in Luis' contract is the main reason behind that. Fenerbahçe went on to board election last weekend and the recent board is re-elected, they are rumoured to find a solution to the managerial dilemma.
Aragones is said to be leaving while his replacement is still to be decided. Newspapers are repeatedly suggesting Spaletti, Scolari, Mancini or Luxemburgo as his reigns.
Sivasspor, a true success story is what I left for the end of this article. They have spent a significantly less amount of money for building a team which really have almost dominated the league for the past two years. Their being inexperienced is causing them to struggle in the final stretch.
Not many people admire the football they play, some even suggest the minions of the league do not fight that much against Sivas as they are said to consider Sivas as "one of them". In a tri-polar league an outsider's presence in the top spot, an Anatolian team fighting for the title really is earning much sympathy.
They have snapped up free players, both local and foreign and managed to squeeze the best out of them. Their January transfer window catch, Yannick Kamanan is really drawing much attention. Their strong center back Bilica is on the watch list of many teams both in and out of country, Fenerbahçe is said to be close to signing him in.
Herve Tum, Mehmet Yildiz, and Pini Felix Ballili are also present in their attacking line. Their goal is safe with Michael Petkovic, who was the former goalie of Trabzonspor. Tum was similarly a unwanted from Bursaspor. They keep on buying players from inside the country so they reduce the chance of failures and also overcome the adaptation problems.
They have a strong enough team that right now, many of their players are wanted by bigger clubs. But definitely, they find it hard to keep up with the mental toughness required to overcome the pressure which gets going near the end. It happened almost exactly the same last year too.
Bülent Uygun, the manager is doing his best to take the pressure off of the team as much as he can. His behavioral style is often compared to the one of Fatih Terim and is talked down, naturally. He takes the blame when things get nasty and praises his players more often than anyone else but those tactics simply do not work in the end; they are still fragile.
Next Saturday's games bring them and Galatasaray face to face. Galatasaray's fifth spot is under threat in case they lose. If Fenerbahçe, who travels to another top spot candidates Trabzonspor, loses too, and Bursaspor wins, Galatasaray finishes in 6th spot which leaves them out of European competitions next year. Besiktas meanwhile travels to Denizli, who has just guaranteed to stay clear of relegation last week.
Besiktas is two points ahead of Sivas, who is one point ahead of Trabzonspor. The last week's last minutes are really bound to be packed up with excitement. Even the goal differences may get into calculations, not only in championship race, but also in relegation line down below.
With Hacettepe and Kocaelispor already gone, there are still three candidates for the last team to say goodbye to Turkcell Super Lig. They are Konyaspor, Antalyaspor and Gençlerbirligi.