Football: Turkey focuses on Intercontinental derby

urkey’s football fans are anticipating one of the highlights of the football season Sunday as rivals Fenerbahce and Galatasaray face each other in the Intercontinental derby.

In a country where the majority of the population follows one of Istanbul’s big three – Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas – no matter where they live, the derby is one of the most eagerly awaited events of the season.

Dubbed the Intercontinantal derby due to Galatasaray’s location on the European side of the Bosphorous and Fenerbahce’s stadium being on the Asian bank, the fixture is also important as the teams are invariably in the running for taking the championship each season.

Currently, Galatasaray have the edge over Fenerbahce, standing second in the Super Lig on goal difference. Besiktas, city rivals to both clubs, top the table with a two point gap.

Sunday’s game is to be played at Fenerbahce’s Sukru Saracoglu stadium in Istanbul’s Kadikoy neighborhood. The ground was renovated in 2006, providing seating for 50,530. The stands were moved closer to the pitch to create a more intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams.

Fenerbahce have the run of recent history over Galatasaray – they have not been beaten at home by their rivals since December 1999 and have beaten Galatasaray in 13 out of 16 of those fixtures.

On Nov. 6, 2002, the Yellow Canaries beat their continental rivals 6-0.

However, the last time Galatasaray drew in Kadikoy in 2012 it saw them win the league for the 18th time.

An added point of interest in the match is the number of players who used to play in the colors of Sunday’s opponents.

Fenerbahce’s Caner Erkin and Mehmet Topal are both former Galatasaray players.

Left-back Caner, 27, had a loan spell with Galatasaray while he was a CSKA Moscow player in the 2009/10 season while Topal, a 29-year-old defensive midfielder, played for the Lions from 2006 to 2010 before moving to Valencia and then Fenerbahce.

For the visitors, Burak Yilmaz, Olcan Adin and Bilal Kisa are all ex-Fenerbahce players.

Yilmaz – now the star striker for the national team – was a Fenerbahce player in 2008/09. He was loaned to Eskisehirspor before being bought by Trabzonspor, transferring to Galatasaray in 2012. The 30-year-old has scored 75 goals in 129 matches over his Galatasaray career.

Adin, 30, joined Galatasaray last year from Trabzonspor and played for Fenerbahce as a young player in the early 2000s while Kisa was at Fenerbahce for three years from 2000. The 32-year-old signed for Galatasaray in the summer.

This year, Dutch team-mates Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie will be playing against each other.

Galatasaray’s Sneijder, 31, joined in January 2013 and has played in five Fenerbahce derbies, including two Super Cup finals. The former Real Madrid and Inter player has scored three goals in the three league games.

Van Persie – Fenerbahce’s 32-year-old summer signing from Manchester United – will be playing his first Galatasaray derby.

The match will be refereed by Firat Aydinus. Kick-off at 7 p.m. local time (1600 GMT).

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