Eagles set to beat Antep and clear huge hurdle on title path

With the season’s end around the corner, Beiiktai is hoping to avoid any nasty surprises in its title race, which involves all three Istanbul powerhouses, and the Black Eagles aim to earn three points at home against lackluster Gaziantepspor on Sunday. Ahead of the last five games of the season, Beiiktai was leading the pack with a slight margin so much so that a defeat might pull them down to the third spot as the team is tied with second-placed Galatasaray and one point clear of third-placed Fenerbahce. It is the last thing that coach Slaven Bilic’s side wishes for in a season when they have reached greater heights domestically and in Europe, the latter to end tragically at the round of last 16 but to remain as a turning point, and seek to wrap up the season with a bang. Besides running for the trophy, the club has been beating the odds, including the lack of a home stadium and financial troubles, throughout the season. Against all odds, the players remain as motivated and greedy as ever. The Turkish media outlets reported this week that many Beiiktai stars, including Demba Ba, are not paid their salaries and can free themselves of the club however, they are aware of all the battles the club is fighting and are avoiding spoiling the atmosphere within the team. The Eagles were relieved with a 2-0 victory in the Trabzonspor derby away and extended their winning run to three matches. Senegalese star Ba, the top scorer of the team with 16 goals, saved the day at Trabzon after Bilic fielded him in the second half. The Croatian coach opted to keep the striker on the sidelines because of a limit on the number of foreign players a team can have on the pitch in a Super League match. Ba is likely to make his way to the starting 11 again this time, but on-form striker Mustafa Pektemek is definitely going have a go as one of the strongest weapons of Bilic against Gaziantepspor, which is on a four-match winless run and going down in the rankings. The 26-year-old has been battling injuries — three times, to be precise — since the start of this season and missed 12 games overall, but each time he has made comebacks stronger than ever. Pektemek scored two goals in his last three appearances, where he stayed on the pitch for the whole game, while he sent home one during the season’s first half. Bilic had to use a different game plan against Trabzonspor due to injuries and card offenses, which kept Ba out of the starting lineup for the sake of strengthening the defense with the inclusion of Daniel Opare, also a foreign player. This week the coach will have Necip Uysal and Serdar Kurtului back in the defense and a hardworking ismail KOybaii is waiting in line to have a chance following his injury. Veli Kavlak, sustaining a shoulder injury for the past six weeks, will miss out on the action against Gaziantepspor and will receive treatment in Austria. He might be ready for the last four weeks of the league. Jose Sosa is expected to take his place on the left of the midfield while GOkhan TOre will fill the other end. Bilic is likely to keep one of his favorites, midfielder Olcay iahan, on the sidelines at the start of the game. Olcay spoke about their championship goal this season to reporters. He said the team has the spirit of 2010, the 100th year anniversary of the club, when the football team last reached the title. quotWe deserve the championship the most. As long as we show our true football, we don’t have any opponents [to challenge us],quot he said. Olcay said the winner of the title might be known before the Galatasaray-Beiiktai derby in the penultimate week. quotI don’t mind losing the Galatasaray match. As long as we raise the trophy,quot he added. In the other match of the day, caykur Rizespor hosts Trabzonspor in their Black Sea derby.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman