One of the fiercest rivalries in world football returns on Sunday, as Turkey’s big two, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, meet with the usual fireworks expected.
Fenerbahce sit 10 points clear of their rivals at the top of the Super Lig and have enjoyed the best of Istanbul’s bragging rights over the last few seasons.
In their last 18 league meetings, Fenerbahce have lost just three times, dating all the way back to May 2005. However, they won’t need reminding that in a derby, the form book goes out of the window.
Venue: Turk Telekom Arena
Date: Sunday, April 6
Time: 5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET
TV Info: Lig TV
Galatasaray in a slump
While Sunday’s hosts may have a wealth of talent at their disposal, their big stars haven’t been able to help their cause in recent weeks.
Per ESPN FC, Gala have recorded just one win in their last seven in all competitions and have had to cope without their talismanic striker, Didier Drogba, for their last three matches.
In Drogba’s absence, the goals have dried up for Roberto Mancini’s side, who have failed to find the net in their last two league games.
The pressure is mounting on the former Manchester City manager, who recently spoke of his side’s lack of form with BBC Sport after Chelsea knocked them out of the Champions League:
"We really played very, very badly. Chelsea were the better side. It’s impossible to score with just one shot on goal. We need to take several steps in order to be a better team.”
However, said steps have not been taken, and following Galatasaray’s 1-0 defeat to Kayserispor on March 22, fans were calling for the Italian’s head.
According to The Telegraph, fans protested by “unveiling banners and chanted for Mancini to resign and called for his predecessor, Faith Terim, to return to the club.”
It was the first victory for the Kayseri club over Galatasaray in Istanbul for 40 years, and Mancini knows that a similar performance will not be enough to see off Fenerbahce, who look set to record their 19th Super Lig title this year.
This season’s meeting and key players
In the reverse fixture at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, Fenerbahce ran out comfortable 2-0 winners, as the club’s official Twitter feed triumphantly revealed:
Goals from Emre and Cristian Baroni gave Ersun Yanal’s team three points, but more importantly, it gave them local pride.
Yanal’s side have been in fantastic form this season, winning 19 of their 26 Super Lig matches, and they have their prolific front line to thank for such a record.
According to SoccerWay, Fenerbahce’s strikers Dirk Kuyt, Moussa Sow, Pierre Webo and Emmanuel Emenike have scored 41 goals between them this season, and they’ll hope for more against the out-of-sorts Galatasaray.
The form of the former Liverpool man Kuyt has been particularly refreshing for Fenerbahce fans. The Dutchman took his goal tally up to 10 for the season after his recent strike against Bursaspor, and he has two in his last three Super Lig matches.
At the turn of the year, Kuyt revealed via Fenerbahce’s Twitter account that all of the club’s strikers are happy to be playing their part in Istanbul, and happiness is clearly having a positive effect in front of goal:
With Kuyt and his fellow strikers in such imperious form, the chances of Galatasaray emerging from their slump to take down the league leaders looks unlikely.
With a 10-point lead at the top of the table, Fenerbahce will draw level with Galatasaray’s title haul if they can cross the line at the end of the campaign. And while Sunday’s match has massive implications on the clubs’ fans, it could also prove to be a title-winner.
Meanwhile, Galatasaray have just seven matches remaining to save their season, but if they can’t find a way to beat their rivals, then both Mancini and the Super Lig trophy could be heading for the Turk Telekom Arena exit door.