OKAN UDO – Lions visit Genler in Ankara seeking victory and league lead

Lions visit Genler in Ankara seeking victory and league leadGalatasaray, or simply the Lions, faces a further test of its credentials when it takes on gritty GenlerbirliIi in the opening match in week 15 of the Spor Toto Super League in Ankara on Friday evening.The Lions have transformed beyond recognition since coach Hamza HamzaoIlu took over from mediocre Italian Cessare Prandelli on Nov.

14. The Lions, who could hardly win in all competitions under Prandelli, can hardly lose under HamzaoIlu.

And some superstitious fans, who thought the club had been jinxed of hexed, are wondering why on earth this good team hitherto performed so poorly.The Lions are unbeaten in seven competitive domestic games, four in the Super League and three in the Ziraat Turkish Cup.

Galatasaray was pummeled 3-0 at home by Trabzonspor in week 10 and after Prandelli, the andldquoJonah on the boat,andrdquo was cast into the sea, the waters grew calm Galatasaray went on to beat Gaziantepspor 1-0 away in week 11 under caretaker goalkeeper coach Claudio Taffarel and defeated Akhisar Belediyespor 2-1 at home in week 12 in HamzaoIluandrsquos first league match in charge.Who can stop the Lions?Thereafter the Lions became unstoppable: They thrashed EskiIehirspor 4-2 in the Turkish Cup even though playing most of the second half with 10 men crushed Torku Konyaspor 5-0 in the league in week 13, bashed fourth division Balova YaIamspor 9-1 in the Turkish Cup edged Riza alImbayandrsquos Mersin Idmanyurdu 3-2 in the league last Saturday and on Tuesday walloped second division Gaziantep BIB 4-1 in the cup.

Galatasaray therefore goes to Ankara aiming to extend its winning streak in the league to five games and eight in all competitions. And HamzaoIlu, on paper, has plenty of ammo in his arsenal to make it happen.

Midfielder and free kick specialist Seluk Inan, as well as striker Burak YIlmaz — who had to endure boos, taunting and curses from their own fans at almost every match under Prandelli — are now among the most beloved players on the teamSeluk, apart from doing the donkey work in midfield, is also providing incisive passes and scoring brilliant goals from dead balls. Burak has recovered his old form and is now scoring in almost every match, taking his goal tally in the league this season to 10.

Winger and defender Sabri SarIoIlu, who was declared persona non grata by Prandelli, is displaying tireless energy with his runs up and down the right flank. And young Portugal winger Bruma, who was condemned to the bench by Prandelli, is now one of HamzaoIluandrsquos favorites.

There are doubts if young defender Semih Kaya, who suffered a concussion in the match against Mersin last Saturday, will be fit enough to make the Galatasaray starting line-up. Dutch winger Wesley Sneijder and Cameroon defender Aurelien Chedjou were nursing slight injuries this week, but the two players are expected to be fit by match time.

Genler no pushoverThe coming of HamzaoIlu has made all the difference at Galatasaray, but there are still many rivers to cross. One of them is at Ankara against unpredictable GenlerbirliIi on Friday.

The Ankara side walloped Torku Konyaspor 5-0 in the Super League last Saturday but the same GenlerbirliIi could only manage a 2-2 draw with Giresunspor in the Turkish Cup on Tuesday.Against the Lions Irfan Buzandrsquos men need to be more consistent and coherent, especially in defense, or else they will get punished by the fleet-footed Galatasaray forwards.

Kickoff is at 8:00 pm.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman