Bulent Uygun is much in demand these days. The former Turkey international is currently the man in charge at Sivasspor, where his methods are producing remarkable results. The club from Sivas, a town of 300,000 in central Anatolia and something of a footballing backwater until recently, are top of the Super Lig with just four games to go.
A relative novice at just 37, Uygun is poised to lead his club to their first-ever domestic crown. Even in the oft-times hyperbolic and bloated world of football reporting, that would rate as sensational: Sivasspor, promoted to the top flight for the first time just four years ago, could become only the second Turkish champions from outside Istanbul. The only club to have broken the country's biggest city's stranglehold on the title so far is Trabzonspor, top dogs an impressive six times between 1976 and 1984.
Three steps to success for Sivasspor
The success achieved by Uygun and his men this term is firmly based on exceptional form at home. The leaders are unbeaten at their 15,000-seat Sivas 4 Eylul Stadi home ground. They also boast far and away the best defence in the league, with just 21 goals conceded. And at the opposite end of the park, Turkey international Mehmez Yildiz has been banging in the necessary goals, a total of 14 so far. The marksman is second only to Milan Baros of top Istanbul outfit Galatasaray in the goalscoring charts this season.
However, with the finishing line in sight, Sivasspor are showing signs of running out of steam. The leaders won neither of their last two away fixtures. Relegation-threatened Konyaspor held the high-fliers to a scoreless draw, and the men from Sivas slumped to a 2-1 defeat away to Gaziantepspor last weekend. A win is a must this Saturday when third-from bottom Istanbul BB come to visit.
Istanbul giants in the thick of it
Besiktas, the second of the big three from Istanbul, are ideally placed to capitalise on any Sivasspor slip-up. The men from the Bosporus are just a point off the leaders, although their confidence and pride took a dent last week in a painful 2-1 home defeat to Fenerbahce, the third of the powerful Istanbul triumvirate. Third-placed Trabzonspor are by no means out of it either, for despite a sobering 3-0 defeat away to Sivasspor two weeks ago, the former champions remain just four points off top spot.
The stage is well and truly set for a thrilling end to the season in Turkey, with the race very probably going down to the last day. Should that be the case, the fixture computer has come up with a truly mouth-watering combination of matches on 31 May: Trabzonspor entertain Fenerbahce, with Sivasspor away to Galatasaray. Could it be that Gala and Fener, out of the running this season in fourth and fifth, open the door for bitter local rivals Besiktas to snatch the title? Or are the men coached by the youthful Bulent Uygun destined to land a historic blow to the pride of the Istanbul big three?
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