Istanbul trio gunning for Bursaspor
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The Turkish Super Lig enters its 51st season this weekend, but the consequences of Bursaspor’s stunning triumph last term are still reverberating around the football-mad nation. It was the first time since 1984 that a non-Istanbul-based team won the competition.

The historic nature of Bursaspor’s achievement is underlined by the fact that they and Trabzonspor are the only clubs not from Istanbul ever to take the title since the formation of the Turkish top flight in its present form. "It's just unbelievable. We were obviously quietly hopeful, but now we’re really champions, it’s truly fantastic,” Bursa coach Ertugrul Saglam enthused in the wake of his side's success.

But can Bursaspor repeat their stirring feat? And how will the wounded Istanbul clubs react? looks ahead to the 2010/11 campaign, with a review of the main transfer activity and news since last May.

The defending champions
Bursaspor should be in a position to mix it at the top of the table for the second season in a row. The club has shown steady improvement in recent years, finishing 13th in 2007/08 and sixth in 2008/09 before their recent conquest. However, it remains to be seen how the men from Bursa will cope with the additional burden of playing in the UEFA Champions League. Coach Saglam, who took the reins in 2008, retains the core of his championship-winning squad. Five men have left the club, but Bursaspor have brought in more than double that number, and should benefit from the extra depth.

The contenders
On 45 occasions in the past, the Super Lig trophy has landed in the hands of Istanbul giants Galatasaray, Fenerbahce (17 league titles apiece) and Besiktas (11). The trio seem destined to fight it out at the top again this season. Besiktas have turned to the vast experience of new coach Bernd Schuster, who numbers Real Madrid among his array of previous clubs. With hopes also resting on star signings Guti and Ricardo Quaresma, the Black Eagles are determined to recapture the trophy they won in 2008/09 but were obliged to surrender last May.

Gala have gone for the radical option, axing more than 20 members of last term’s squad and bringing in a dozen new faces so far. Rebuilding on that scale almost always entails a transition period, frequently with patchy results, so the bookmakers have installed last year’s runners-up Fener as pre-season favourites for the title. The Yellow Canaries have followed a highly selective transfer policy this summer, and enter the new campaign with more or less the same team which remained firmly in the 2009/10 title race until the last day. That stability might well prove the ace this season.

The outsiders
Only one other club rate as title contenders worthy of the name. Six-time champions Trabzonspor, consistent top-six finishers in recent years, are always capable of upsetting the established order. Senol Gunes and his men, cup winners last term, picked up the first official trophy of the new season last weekend with a 3-0 Turkish Super Cup defeat of Bursaspor. Colombia striker Teofilo Gutierrez helped himself to a hat-trick.

Star signings
Besiktas led the way in terms of big names with the capture of Spanish superstar Guti (from Real Madrid), pacy Portuguese Quaresma (from Inter) and new supremo Schuster. A number of players who featured at the FIFA World Cup have also fetched up in Turkey, including Slovakia schemer Miroslav Stoch (Chelsea to Fenerbahce), his national team-mate Stanislav Sestak (Bochum to Ankaragucu) and Robert Vittek (Lille to Ankaragucu). Another high-profile arrival is Paraguay midfielder Jonathan Santana, now with Kayserispor after becoming surplus to requirements at Wolfsburg.

Players to watch
These Super Lig newcomers merely swell the ranks of internationally recognised stars plying their trade in Turkey. Fans can look forward to more thrills and action from local hero Arda Turan, his Galatasaray team-mate Milan Baros, Daniel Guiza, Alex (both Fenerbahce) and Nihat Kahveci (Besiktas).

Arguably to an even greater extent, the spotlight will again fall on last year’s top scorer, Kayserispor goal-getter Ariza Makukula. He comfortably topped the 2009/10 scoring charts on 21 goals, streets ahead of Julio Cesar (13), Necati Ates and Bobo (both 12). However, with the influx of top international forwards over the summer, the race is likely to be a lot closer this time round.

Have Your Say
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