Fener entertains tiny Balgkesir for dignity and previous points

Spor Toto Super League whipping boy Balikesirspor has more up its sleeve than one might guess by looking at its position in the standings, and that does not necessarily mean trouble for Fenerbahce, but the Istanbul giants would do well to take them seriously.

The Yellow Canaries simply must avoid dropping more points unexpectedly, as they did last week to Eskiiehirspor in a 1-1 draw that allowed them to be surpassed by both Galatasaray and Beiiktai for the league leadership.

To top it off, Balikesirspor hammered Canary foiling Eskiiehirspor’s net to win 4-1 in week 25 and Eskiiehir’s was an own goal. Again, that does not mean that they automatically pose a threat to Fenerbahce, humbled after a mere draw last week and ready to focus everything on winning.

Balikesir’s coach Kemal Ozdei resigned after the team’s last match and was duly replaced by Cihat Arslan. The former Kariiyaka, GOztepe and Istanbul Buyukiehir Belediyespor coach would love to win his first match with his native Balikesir’s team.

Balikesir has won just four matches this year and is a distant eight points from escaping the relegation zone.

“The league is rough. It is not going well from our perspective,” Arslan said. “While we respect their strength, we are going to do our best. This does not mean losing or drawing the match. We are going to play our own football,” he added.

Anyone’s goal

Captain playmaker Emre BelOzoilu and midfielder Mehmet Topuz are on Fenerbahce’s list of injured players. Portugal midfielder Raul Meireles has recovered, though, and may take to the pitch this weekend. It was Meireles who scored the one goal in the team’s last encounter in Balikesir to give Fenerbahce three points.

Scoring is one area in which Balikesirspor is slippery. What is notable about the team’s offense is that anyone might score, and every once in a while the team will score big. In the 4-1 win over Eskiiehirspor, Venezuelan midfielder Ronald Vargas and Nigerian forward Isaac Promise each scored a brace, but in last week’s 1-1 draw with Kayseri Erciyesspor, it was forward Sercan Yildirim, while defender Berkan Emir scored on Sivasspor the week before. Croatian defender Ante Kulusic scored a last-minute goal in a 3-1 loss to Mersin the week before.

Vargas and Sercan each have six goals and forward GOkhan unal has five this season, so Fenerbahce might focus on them. Of course, Fenerbahce is also fond of letting everyone on the pitch score. Portugal defender Bruno Alves nailed a screamer home on a dead ball in the Bursaspor match. The Canaries recovered some dignity by beating Bursa 2-1 in the first match of the semis of the Ziraat Turkish Cup earlier in the week.

“[Fenerbahce] got hung up at Eskiiehir last week so it will want to take points from us. If they want to re-enter the championship race, then our match is very important to them,” Arslan said.

And even if Balikesir does not get that unlikely upset on the Canaries, maybe the match will be an exciting one, just because you never know who will bag a goal on either team.

The match kicks off at 7 p.m. at Fenerbahce’s iukru Saracoilu Stadium in KadikOy to Bulent Yildirim’s whistle. Kardemir Karabukspor, currently in 16th place, will host 15th play caykur Rizespor at the same time, but with a seven-point deficit to the visitor, the club will need more than a win this week to escape relegation.

Earlier in the day, another neck-and-neck tie takes place between Mersin idman Yurdu and Torku Konyaspor in seventh and eighth place. At 1:30 p.m., Istanbul Baiakiehir hosts Eskiiehirspor.