Super League battle rages on for Champions League, Europa rights

Seven simultaneous matches on Sunday left everything but the top honor in flux. Even though Fenerbahce’s Yellow Canaries are king, they will be serving the second year of their ban from UEFA, which means that the battle for second place is more important than ever.

With Fenerbahce out of the question, the Super League runner-up earns direct entry into the UEFA Champions League to play with the top clubs in Europe. Normally, second place would warrant entry in the qualification rounds of the competition. This year, the third place will enter the qualification rounds.

The Canaries’ fellow İstanbul giants, Galatasaray and Besiktas, are neck-and-neck. A mere one-point difference puts the Lions in second place over Besiktas. The Black Eagles, as Besiktas is commonly known, had the advantage before they were crushed 3-0 by Sivasspor away. Galatasaray edged Sanica Boru Elazıgspor 0-1 for a three-point boost.

“We cannot think now about finishing second or third. We have three games and we have to win them. Then we are going to see in which position we finish,” Besiktas’s Slaven Bilic lamented after the match. “This is a game that I am very disappointed [about],” the Croatian coach added.

Both he and Galatasaray’s Roberto Mancini have had their fair share of disappointment since they began their careers in Turkish football. Even with a team decorated with stars like Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder, Mancini has failed to make anything big of Galatasaray this year — with the exception of his team’s performance in the Ziraat Turkish Cup, which the Lions still have a chance at.

Europe or bust

Not too far behind the top three are Trabzonspor and Sivasspor, drawn even with 49 points apiece after both registered wins this weekend. Fourth is another critical position as it will enter the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League this season, while fifth place goes in a round earlier.

These two are technically within striking distance of a Champions League qualifying berth if things go very poorly for Galatasaray or Besiktas in the final matches.

Similarly, Trabzon and Sivas may lose any shot at international competition to the likes of Kasımpasa, Kardemir Karabukspor or Genclerbirligi, which have 47, 46 and 44 points, respectively.

“If we look at the 31 matches we have played we are where we deserve to be, and we are even missing a few points,” Kasımpasa’s Georgian coach Shota Arveladze said after their match against Antalyaspor. “As a result [of the match] we have gotten three important points,” he added.

Bottom of the heap

The fight for mere survival at the bottom of the Super League may be lower profile, but it is equally desperate. None of the three teams that will be relegated to the second division is set in stone, but the current cellar dweller is Kayserispor with just 26 points after losing to Karabukspor this weekend.

Medical Park Antalyaspor is doing marginally better with 28 points after a 2-0 defeat at Kasımpasa. Elazıg is currently in the relegation bracket with 31 points, but could easily recover by overtaking Kayseri Erciyesspor, which bumped Elazıg to 16th with a spirited 0-1 victory at Eskisehirspor away on Sunday.

Gaziantepspor is not safe either with 36 points after a 2-1 loss to Trabzon; nor are Torku Konyaspor or Caykur Rizespor with 37 apiece.

In short, the fight that Fenerbahce has already won is still raging on for everyone else.