Lions face moment of truth in second leg of cup at Bursa

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Galatasaray takes on Bursaspor away in the second-leg semifinal of the second-tier Ziraat Turkish Cup at Ataturk Stadium on Wednesday, needing victory at all costs to keep its slim hopes of winning a trophy this season alive after the first leg in Istanbul ended in a two-all draw.

The Lions, as Galatasaray is popularly called, have been all over the place this season. They were eliminated from the big-time UEFA Champions League and have dropped to third in the domestic Spor Toto League with only five games to go.

The Turkish Cup is therefore the only redemption left for the Lions, but that is a tall order given the fact that away goals count double in the cup and Bursaspor scored two in the first leg at Turk Telekom Arena on March 25.

This means that Bursaspor, aka the Green Crocs, has a great aantage going into Wednesday’s game because a 0-0 or 1-1 draw will be enough for the Crocs to aance to the final against either Medical Park Antalyaspor or EskiIehirspor, which will be playing their second leg on Thursday at Antalya’s Akdeniz University Stadium. For the record, Antalyaspor won the first leg 1-0 at EskiIehir on March 26.

Lions away jinx

Roberto Mancini’s Lions will have their backs against the wall on Wednesday because they face a must-win situation at Bursa. The Lions may aance on the away goals rule if they draw 3-3, 4-4 or more, but there is a very slim possibility — if any possibility — that so many goals will be scored in that match. Since a winner must emerge on Wednesday, the game will go into 30-minute extra time if it ends 2-2 at full time and a penalty shootout will be used to determine the winner.

The Lions have been disastrously bad in away matches this season. The record books show that Mancini’s men have only won three of their Super League 15 away matches, drawn nine and lost three. And the way they were outplayed, outclassed and outscored 2-1 by tiny Sivasspor in the Super League on Saturday is living proof that the Lions become lambs whenever they play away from home.

Wednesday’s match must be played in Bursaspor not in Istanbul and so the Lions must aim for victory to try and salvage something out of what has otherwise been a lost season.

Brazil midfielder Felipe Melo, Dutch second striker Wesley Benjamin Sneijder and Turkey defender Hakan Kadir Balta all missed Saturday’s match at Sivas due to suspensions, and the Galatasaray defense was as porous as a sieve. These players should be available for Wednesday’s match.

With the Champions League and Super League dreams gone, Mancini knows more than anyone that he cannot hide behind excuses if Galatasaray is eliminated from the Turkish Cup on Wednesday.

“Now we have two targets ahead of us,” Mancini said. “The first is to win the Turkish Cup and the other to finish in the league and qualify for the Champions League proper next season. If we come together as one and work together, we can accomplish these feats,” he noted.

ôte d’Ivoire forward Didier Drogba, who was sidelined on Saturday, will be absent again on Wednesday because he has flown to France for treatment of a slipped disc. Injured Cameroon defender Aurelien Chedjou will be another noticeable absentee in Bursa.

Striker Umut Bulut and Burak YIlmaz were horrible on Saturday and they must regain form against Bursa or else the Lions will wind up winning nothing at all this season.

rocs lying in ambush

But Bursaspor cannot be taken for granted. Languishing in agony in 11th place in the 18-team Super League, the Crocs can only play in Europe (UEFA Europa League) next season if they win the cup. And that gives added importance to Wednesday’s match.

The team has trained very hard this week under the watchful eye of coach Irfan Buz. The Crocs may be missing the services of injured Nuremberg-born midfielder Iamil Çinaz and Argentine defender Renato Civelli, but Buz is confident his team shall overcome.

“We are Bursaspor and our players will prove this [without a doubt on Wednesday],” Buz said.

“We respect our opponents [Galatasaray]. However, every Bursaspor player is bound to put up a good fight. We will be playing on our home ground and so will be aiming for victory in front of our fans. But we are warning our supporters that there can be ups and downs in a cup match and so they should support us until the very end,” he added.

Kickoff is at 8 p.m. and the referee will be Ilker Meral.

(CihanToday’s Zaman)