Beskitas vs. Galatasaray: Handicapping One of the World’s Fiercest Sporting Rivalries
There are some hugely important matches across Europe this weekend, but the Istanbul Derby between Galatasaray and Besiktas (Sunday, 12 p.m. ET) may just be the biggest.
The rivalry between the two sides is significant enough to make it a top match on any given weekend, but with four games remaining in the Turkish Super Lig, just one point separates the hosts, Galatasaray, who sit at the top of the table and their visitors, who are in third, behind Istanbul Basaksehir on goal difference alone. With fellow capital city club Fenerbahce just two points further back, we are in the remarkable position of a four-horse title race heading into the final month of the campaign.
Fuel to the Fire
As if it were needed, there’s been even more gas poured on the fire for the visitors in particular this week. Besiktas will approach this game feeling a great sense of injustice as they await Fenerbahce’s punishment for fan violence which forced their Turkish Cup semifinal to be abandoned in the second half after the home fans threw missiles onto the pitch — one of which struck coach Senol Guns leaving him requiring stitches — Besiktas were expecting their opponents to be disqualified.
Instead the Turkish FA’s decision to continue the match from its previous state, with the score at 0-0 and Besiktas down to ten men due to a red card for Pepe, has left the club enraged and sparked a decision to boycott the tie altogether. Make no mistake, the reigning champions feel victimized and will be out for revenge this weekend.
The crucial factor will be whether or not they can keep their heads under the circumstances and the pressure from the Galatasaray fans will be immense, and while Pepe was only handed a one-match ban — meaning he is available on Sunday — his involvement only increases the likelihood that this game won’t end with a full compliment of players on the field.
A Nervy Affair
As far as the outcome of the match itself is concerned, it’s way too tough to predict which way this one will end up, although neither side would really celebrate a point that could swing the title out of either of their favor and bring Fenerbahce right back into the running in the process. A nervy affair then, this is a match that is likely to be decided by one error, be that from a player or the officials, and the quality on show may suffer, meaning that the usual creators on both sides struggle to make an impact.
It’s the sort of occasion that requires a cool head when it matters most, especially in front of goal, and it’s Galatasaray that hold the advantage in that regard. Alvaro Negredo has struggled to make the desired impact since that infamous ‘Coming to Besiktas’ unveiling, and Cenk Tosun’s January departure has left Gunes’ squad short in a key area, meanwhile Bafetimbi Gomis has settled into life at Galatasaray in outstanding and immediate fashion.
The Frenchman is the runaway top scorer in Turkey this season, scoring 27 league strikes, and is averaging more than a goal per game at home (17 in 15). His finishes aren’t always pretty but this game certainly won’t be, either, and the experienced front man is undoubtedly the most likely match winner, at 1.80 (-125) to score anytime.
As mentioned, however, while there will be no shortage of drama, goalmouth action may be at a premium, and with each of the last four meetings between these sides at Galatasaray seeing under 2.5 goals, I’d back a repeat this weekend. In fact, none of said four matches have seen both teams score and a narrow 1-0 win either way looks the most likely scoreline to me. With odds as high as 2.30 (+130) on two goals or fewer in the game, that would be my top tip for this one.
With massive implications on the title race, if either side does end up beaten and bloodied this Sunday, it may well be too difficult to come back from. The enormity of this match for all those involved at the top of the Super Lig table really cannot be overstated.
Photo: Galatasaray fans show their support with a large tifo.