Beşiktaş well placed entering the business end of the season

Updated: April 10, 2018

It was never going to be easy for Besiktas in 2017/18. Coping with the added demands of Champions League football is nothing new for the 15-time Turkish champions but fans were expecting some kind of improvement in Europe’s elite club competition. And to be fair, Besiktas gave their supporters a few memorable moments in this year’s tournament.

Neutrals expected Besiktas to be the whipping boys in their Champions League group this campaign but Senol Gunes’ side exceeded expectations, avoiding defeat in all six of their fixtures against Porto, Monaco and RB Leipzig. Unfortunately, Besiktas came up against German giants Bayern Munich in the last-16 and that was the end of their European journey – but that defeat has allowed Besiktas to focus purely on retaining the Turkish crown.

With six matches remaining, Besiktas are just three points behind current leaders Istanbul Basaksehir. Having sat at the top of the table for most of the campaign, the 2016/17 runners-up are fighting to hold the likes of Besiktas and Galatasaray off in the race for domestic glory and it should be a very exciting end to the campaign.

At this moment in time, it is difficult to choose an outright winner – all three teams are playing well. However, Besiktas fans will be hoping that their experience will give them the edge in the coming weeks. The defending champions have lost just one of their last 11 top flight fixtures; Istanbul Basaksehir snatched a 1-0 victory in March. There is a very small line between success and failure and that result could come back to haunt the Turkish giants.

Istanbul Basaksehir and Galatasaray go head to head in the coming weeks and Besiktas fans will be hoping for a draw in that fixture. A share of the spoils in that heavyweight contest and a victory for Besiktas will see the Turkish champions climb into second spot – just one point behind the current leaders. Crunch time is here and it is now all about guts, endeavour and determination.

Putting your body on the line, even with a World Cup approaching this summer, is an absolute must; every player should be focused entirely on winning the title this season. Looking past the domestic campaign at the international tournament could be catastrophic in the pursuit of glory. Gunes will have his troops fired up and ready for the final push at securing a third successive Super Lig crown.

Besiktas have a tough run-in though, with a daunting trip to fellow contenders Galatasaray on the horizon. The most successful team in Turkish football, Galatasaray have struggled to inspire confidence in recent years – with just one title triumph since 2013. The Super Lig is now one of Europe’s most competitive divisions and that has helped to bolster interest in Turkish football across the continent.

Fatih Terim’s side will be quietly confident of glory this season but Besiktas have enough quality to spoil the party. Victory at Turk Telekom Arena could give Besiktas the boost needed to go on and retain the crown; it would be foolish to write the Turkish champions off just yet. A loss for either side would be damaging for both momentum and morale – it really is a make-or-break encounter.

A Turkish Cup semi-final second leg against Fenerbahce awaits as well. After drawing the first leg 2-2 on home soil, the onus is on Besiktas to go out and attack their opponents – Gunes’ men could blow Fenerbahce out of the water. A first Turkish Cup since 2010/11 beckons if Besiktas can get past Aykut Kocaman’s side later this month. Discipline will be key here; 11 red cards have been shown in the last five matches involving both teams.

Winning this competition isn’t the number-one priority by any stretch of the imagination but Besiktas could use it as a platform for further success in the coming months. An extra fixture or two shouldn’t affect fatigue too much. Besiktas will be expecting to advance to the final of the competition but their record in this fixture isn’t fantastic; Fenerbahce have won three of the previous five head-to-heads.

Alvaro Negredo has really stepped up in the Turkish Cup this season but it is now time for the ex-Manchester City man to prove his worth in Super Lig. A strong finish to the season could see him stake a late claim to feature in Spain’s World Cup squad this summer. Julen Lopetegui’s side are well fancied to go on and win the competition but, following their collapse at the last tournament, plenty of punters will be using the various World Cup free bet promotions via Oddschecker in the coming months.

Negredo could help his national team to glory, just as he did at Euro 2012 but his domestic form hasn’t been good enough. He could be Besiktas’ difference maker over the coming months – it would be great to see the former Manchester City and Middlesbrough man back at his brilliant best and a return to form would help Besiktas as they look to retain the title and potentially lift the Turkish Cup.

At the other end of the field, Besiktas have a slight advantage over their title rivals. Gunes’ men have a better defensive record than both Galatasaray and Istanbul Basaksehir and that could be decisive. The defending champions have conceded 24 goals so far this season – Istanbul have allowed 27 whilst Galatasaray have let in 29. Slender margins but every little helps when it comes to goal difference.

Besiktas rely on their defensive stability and fans will be hoping that they remain solid throughout the rest of the campaign. They might not be the most entertaining team in Turkish football but they are arguably the most effective and efficient. Ruling the current champions out based on a lack of attacking prowess compared to their two title rivals would be foolish; defence wins championships.

You can understand why a few players might be a little apprehensive at this stage of the season but Besiktas cannot afford to carry any passengers. It is now imperative for players to focus on the next fixture rather than looking ahead at other key dates – EVERY match is of pivotal importance now. The title will be won or lost over the next six weeks and Besiktas fans will be praying that they come out on top.

The bookmakers are finding it difficult to split the top three, and that is testament to how evenly matched this title race is. Galatasaray will be well backed in the coming weeks but Besiktas are well placed to pounce if either of their rivals drop points. The end is drawing nearer and nobody knows who is going to lift the title – this will surely go down as one of the most exciting seasons in Turkish football.

Besiktas have been the dominant force in Turkish football in recent years and supporters are hoping that the current champions can make it three in a row. Backing the outright winner at this stage is difficult but Besiktas have that title-winning experience and that could be crucial. Senol Gunes will be determined to lead his side to another crown and it is sure to be an exciting end to the campaign. If nothing else, this entertaining finish to the season has helped to put Turkey’s domestic league on the map and that can only be a positive for the future of football in the country

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Kaan Bayazit

Editor-in-chief at Beşiktaş International
Freelance sports writer specialized in Turkish football and Beşiktaş. Co-host of the Black Eagles podcast. Frequently featured in World Soccer Digest Japan and many other international media outlets. Following Turkish football for close to two decades. Proud father to Aedin.
Kaan Bayazit
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