Galatasaray AŞ go into the Turkish Super League winter break on a high after their convincing 4-2 Istanbul derby win against Beşiktaş JK and coach Michael Skibbe is relishing competing for trophies on three different fronts.
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Galatasaray AŞ go into the Turkish Super League winter break on a high after their convincing 4-2 Istanbul derby win against Beşiktaş JK on Sunday.
Having secured a UEFA Cup knockout place earlier this month, Galatasaray went into the visit of Beşiktaş knowing defeat would leave them behind both their opponents and Fenerbahçe SK until fixtures resume in late January. But a Milan Baroš hat-trick ensured that Galatasaray struck four goals against Beşiktaş for the first time since a 4-4 draw in May 1968, as well as taking his seasonal tally to a league-leading 14.
The reigning champions have won their last four league games, scoring a total of 13 goals, and are just a point adrift of leading pair Sivasspor and Trabzonspor, one ahead of fourth-placed Fenerbahçe and five clear of Beşiktaş in sixth. Galatasaray also go into February's UEFA Cup Round of 32 tie against FC Girondins de Bordeaux as Turkey's only remaining contenders in Europe, in a competition that concludes on 20 May at Fenerbahçe's Şükrü Saraçoglu Stadium.
Coach Michael Skibbe, who had Barış Özbek and Mehmet Topal returning from injury, deployed a two-man strikeforce against Beşiktaş rather than the usual lone forward and it paid dividends. "Their return also boosted our success in winning key tackles and marking," Skibbe said. "It was a pleasant game to watch. My players play better against attacking opposition. We have been through some hard times but they appear to be in the past. We totally deserved victory today because we had more chances to score."
Those hard times include a long injury list that helped undo them in UEFA Champions League qualifying against FC Steaua Bucureşti and continues to trouble Skibbe, "I hope for a 2009 with fewer injuries," he said. "When Harry Kewell, Tobias Linderoth cand Emre Güngör return, the competition within the squad will increase and we will be stronger than ever." Skibbe, whose side end 2008 with a Turkish Cup group game at 1. League side Altay SK next Sunday, added: "The winter break will be good for our team before we start our challenge on three different fronts. We aim to go as far as possible in the UEFA Cup and win the title."
Beşiktaş coach Mustafa Denizli was a disappointed man, saying his team "should not" have let in four goals but remains optimistic. "I believe that we will show our real strength when the season resumes," he said. "The players in my squad should feel deep inside they can win the title. In my team there are players who feel this and some who don't. We will continue with the ones who feel it."