Sunday's derby between Besiktas JK and Fenerbahçe SK will be even more fraught than usual.
By Türker Tozar
With only four games remaining until the end of the Turkish season, Sunday's Istanbul derby between Besiktas JK and Fenerbahçe SK promises to be even more emotionally fraught than usual.
Having drawn 2-2 in the Sükrü Saraçoglu stadium in their first derby game of the season, third-placed Besiktas are desperate for a win on home territory at the Inönü stadium to resurrect their hopes of retaining the championship they won in such style under Mircea Lucescu last season.
They are currently five points adrift of first-placed Fenerbahçe, having been knocked off top spot by Christoph Daum's side in February, but both the Istanbul sides are facing unfamiliar competition in the form of Ziya Dogan's surprise candidates for the title, Trabzonspor.
Trabzonspor are currently second in the table, and since they are only two points adrift of Fenerbahçe, could take top spot if the leaders falter against Besiktas, perhaps raising hopes of winning their first Turkish title since the 1983/84 season.
Should Fenerbahçe manage to win away from home against Besiktas, their hosts' chances of retaining their title would suddenly look very slender indeed - and would depend on both of their title rivals succumbing to a disastrous slump in form in the remaining three games of the season.
Daum, himself a former coach of Besiktas, knows well that his side must improve after collecting just one point from their last two games. "It is beyond difficult," he said of the match. "It will be the most critical match of the season."
Besiktas too know they will have to raise their game after two consecutive draws in the league, but Lucescu faces the prospect of trying to stitch together a winning side without four of his finest players. Defenders Ronaldo Guiaro and Emre Asik are suspended, while team captain Tayfur Havutçu and forward Ahmed Hassan are sidelined through injury.
The absence of Ronaldo and Emre will probably force Lucescu to form a three-man defence with Zago, Ahmet Yildirim and Yasin Sülün in defence and Italian Federico Giunti playing the anchor role just in front of the trio.
As if to make matters worse, Yasin Sülün and Daniel Pancu are also in doubt for Sunday's game having trained separately from the rest of the squad. Lucescu's response has been to exhort Besiktas's supporters to fill the Inönü stadium and make up in noise for what his team may lack in first-team players.