The Turkish Süper Lig begins on Friday with champions Beşiktaş JK meeting İstanbul BB SK at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium. The Black Eagles may have won the domestic double in 2008/09 but a 2-0 defeat by Fenerbahçe SK in the Super Cup plus the reinforcements made by Christoph Daum's charges and fellow city rivals Galatasaray SK suggest they may find it difficult to retain their crown.
Case for the defence
Beşiktaş's solid defence, which was breached just 30 times in 34 matches last term, has been strengthened by the signing of Italian centre-back Matteo Ferrari, who should form a solid partnership with Tomáš Sivok. The German duo of Fabian Ernst and new signing Michael Fink will provide cover just in front of the back four, while in attack Turkish international Nihat Kahveci has returned to the club after seven years away although how he returns from a long-term knee injury remains to be seen. Matías Delgado is sidelined for three months after undergoing groin surgery.
The main contenders: Galatasaray SK, Fenerbahçe SK, Trabzonspor
Galatasaray signalled their intentions for the new campaign with the eye-catching appointment of the former FC Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard. They have also drafted in forward Kader Keita from Olympique Lyonnais and Manchester City FC's Brazilian playmaker Elano, not to mention goalkeeper Leo Franco. Retaining the services of tall centre-back Servet Çetin and last term's 20-goal leading scorer Milan Baroš have also been notable, but how long they take to adapt to Rijkaard's desired 4-3-3 formation could well determine their fate.
The return of German coach Daum to Fenerbahçe has lifted spirits following last season's disappointing fourth-place finish. The acquisitions of midfielders Mehmet Topuz from Kayserispor and Ankaraspor AŞ's Özer Hurmacı were the cause of much publicity in Turkey but they will need to cope without the injured Edu plus Uruguayan defender Diego Lugano, who did not renew his contract.
Trabzonspor have had a much quieter pre-season than 12 months ago when they signed more than 20 players. Third-place finishers last term, the Black Sea club's new Belgian coach Hugo Broos is pondering whether to employ a lone front man, with strikers Gökhan Ünal and Umut Bulut vying for a starting berth in their opening fixture against last season's runners-up Sivasspor.
Best of the rest
Sivasspor's hopes of repeating their achievements have been hit by the departure of several players, including defender Fabio Bilica to Fenerbahçe. Bülent Uygun's side will have to contend with a rejuvenated Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray, both desperate to reassert their authority, and the challenges of Bursaspor, Gaziantepspor, Kayserispor and Eskişehirspor, all of whom will be targeting European qualification.
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