By Türker Tozar
The Istanbul derby between Galatasaray SK and Fenerbahçe SK is always a keenly-awaited fixture, but Sunday's fixture at Ali Sami Yen stadium has the hallmarks of a league decider about it.
Four straight wins have taken Fenerbahçe five points clear of Galatasaray in the Turkish Superleague table and an away win would leave the champions within an ace of defending their title. Unsurprisingly, all tickets for the encounter went within two hours of going on sale.
Having defeated Manchester United FC 3-0 in their final UEFA Champions League game of the season, to give themselves a boost before their UEFA Cup entry in Februrary, Fenerbahçe are without several key players against their city rivals. Midfield dynamo Marco Aurélio is suspended while striker Pierre van Hooijdonk and defender Deniz Baris miss the game with calf injuries. Kemal Aslan missed the United game with a groin problem but team doctors are doing their utmost to get the midfield player fit for Sunday.
Galatasaray have no worries, led by strike duo Necati Ates and Hakan Sükür with nine and eight goals respectively this season. A loss to Diyarbakirspor and draw with Malatyaspor are their only setbacks in their last five games.
Alex in form
At the other end, Brazilian duo Alex and Márcio Nobre will provide Fenerbahçe's attacking thrust. A midfielder by trade, Alex has ten goals this season, one ahead of his compatriot. Tuncay Sanli's hat-trick against United is proof of his fine form too.
Fenerbahçe coach Christoph Daum is looking for his team to keep their focus after the midweek triumph. "We enjoyed it, we celebrated it and now it is time to concentrate on the derby," he said. "
The Galatasaray match will be more important than the Manchester United game."
Home side confident
Meanwhile, Galatasaray director of football Fatih Göksen is expecting a game played in a sporting spirit - and three points. "We know Fenerbahçe are in fine form, everyone is witnessing their displays," he said. "However, we are in form as well and confident of ourselves. Our team will play the match at home, thus we will have the slight advantage though I cannot say who is favourite because it is a derby match."
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