Istanbul trio poised for battle

The 50th Turkish Super Lig season is about to get underway and, as is invariably the case, all eyes will be on the Istanbul trio of Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray who are expected to set the championship pace.

Last season Sivasspor came close to shaking up the established hierarchy and almost became the second non-Istanbul club to win the title. They faded during the run-in however, leaving Trabzonspor, six-time winners between 1976 and 1984, as the only club to have achieved this feat. Are things about to change this season?

The champions
"Last season was a real adventure, and at the end of the day we came out on top," said Mustafa Denizli, whose Besiktas team were the ones holding the trophy aloft at the end of 2008/09. The Black Eagles did not stop there, however, achieving the Turkish double by winning the cup as well.

Besiktas are of course among the favourites for the title this year, and though Gokhan Zan has moved on, the arrivals of Matteo Ferrari and Nihat Kahveci mean that, on paper, the reigning champions look stronger than ever.

The challengers

The main rivals to Besiktas will be their city neighbours Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, who flattered to deceive last term and finished a lowly fifth and fourth respectively. Fener have taken on top German coach Christoph Daum and midfield maestro Mehmet Topuz, and have already beaten Besiktas 2-0 in this season's Turkish Super Cup.

Record title-winners Galatasaray have also been active in the transfer market, picking up a number of big names including Abdul Kader Keita, Elano and Zan in an attempt to put their worse league placing in five years behind them.

The outsiders

Runners-up Sivasspor were on top of the league on no fewer than 15 occasions last season before running out of steam late on. Bulent Uygun's men will be hoping to last the distance this time around, despite having been much less active in the transfer market than their Istanbul rivals.

Six-time league winners Trabzonspor are also hoping to be in the shake-up this term, although they also made no major acquisitions of note during the off-season and may come up short when faced with the might of the Istanbul threesome.

The main transfers

The big three spent some 50 million euros between them (Besiktas spending around 15 million, Galatasaray 16 million and Fenerbahce around 28 million), leaving the rest of the Super Lig trailing in their wake.

The Lions created quite a stir by dipping deep into their wallets to sign Ivorian international Keita from Lyon and Brazil's Elano from Manchester City. This exciting duo will very much be the ones to watch when the new season gets under way.

The new faces

Andre Santos and Cristian are a pair of 26-year-old Brazilians who have arrived on the banks of the Bosporus, at Fenerbahce to be exact. 29-year-old Nihat Kahveci meanwhile is coming back to reigning champions Besiktas, where he began his career, after spending the past seven seasons in Spain.

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