ISTANBUL - Sivasspor welcomes Trabzonspor for one of this year’s deciding matches of the Turkcell Super League. Despite the fact that it brings the league leader and the third-place team face-to-face, it has the added intrigue of being like a season finale for two contenders trying to take the trophy out of the hands of Istanbul clubs
With only six weeks left in the season, Sivasspor is leading the league one point ahead of Beşiktaş and four ahead of third-place Trabzonspor. If Sivasspor wins the game at its own 4 Eylül Stadium, it will prove that it is worthy of winning the title. On the other hand, Trabzonspor will need a win in order not to be left far behind the race. Meanwhile, a draw will make way for Beşiktaş.
Sivasspor captain Mehmet Yıldız did not play down the importance of the game.
"This is the most important game of the season for us," said the powerhouse striker. "This is a game that we may reap what we sowed all through the season. If we were to play the final of the Turkish cup, it would not be as important as that game."
Sivasspor has been leading the league for 14 weeks and with its big game performance so far, it looks close to become only the fifth team to win the title in the history of the league. But it will need to prove that it may handle the pressure of the deciding weeks of the season, as well as playing big matches.
In 50 years of top-flight of Turkish football, only four teams, Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş and Trabzonspor, have managed to win the title. If Sivasspor achieves such a big feat, it will not only change the course of history to deny the "big four," it will also end 25-year Istanbul domination in the league. Since Trabzonspor’s last league victory in 1984, no team outside Istanbul has won the title.
Like a final game
Now, two Anatolian teams will play a game worthy of a final, but although it is a do-or-die game for Trabzonspor, the home team may afford a draw as well.
"I think four wins and one draw in the last six weeks will be enough for us to win the title," said Sivasspor coach Bülent Uygun. "In my accounts, we can win the title with 70 points. I dream, I hope so."
Sivasspor dropped two points last Saturday when it was held to a goalless draw at Konyaspor and was knocked out of the Fortis Turkish Cup semifinal by Fenerbahçe with another 0-0 three days later.
Those draws may point to a slight slipup in form for Sivas, but coach Uygun underlined another serious issue about fixtures.
"The Sivasspor-Trabzonspor game should be played on Sunday night slot, instead of Saturday afternoon," said Uygun. "They should have made things easier, but unfortunately, the administrators of this game did not do it that way. Sivasspor will play its third game in eight days. But I will try to keep them in shape with the right training methods."
Unlike Sivasspor’s recent flops, Trabzonspor’s form is ascending. The Black Sea Storm had a four-game period without a win in March, but finally managed to get six points from its last two games. Now, it needs a win to prove that its form is not temporary with a win over Sivasspor.
"We were the favorite team to win the title, but suffered some unexpected results," Trabzonspor striker Gökhan Ünal said to the club’s official Web site. "But now we are winning again, and still have a chance as our rivals lost points, too. Now the bad days are over."
Turkish international admitted that Sivasspor game would decide Trabzonspor’s fate.
"We know that Sivasspor game will be a turning point and this is how we prepare for that match. If we can win the Sivasspor game, we will become the favorite team for the title again," said Ünal. "So, no one can stop us if we beat Sivasspor."