Istanbul derby marks grand finale for 2008 .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - This weekend’s games wrap up the first stage of the Turkcell Super League and football action for this year, and the Galatasaray-Beşiktaş match will have the honor of being the grand finale of 2008. With its recent form, Galatasaray is the favorite for Sunday’s derby, but Beşiktaş will be looking to cause an upset at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium.

The first stage of the Turkcell Super League and the country’s football season wraps up with a clash worthy of the tag "finale," as Galatasaray welcomes Beşiktaş on Sunday evening.

Usually seen as the more peaceful of the Istanbul rivalries, behind both team’s enmities with Fenerbahçe, it is likely to be an important match for both teams, despite only marking the halfway point of the season.

Galatasaray will be looking to keep pace with top two teams, Sivasspor and Trabzonspor, with a win against Beşiktaş. As it has had a stunning rise in form, the Lions will be the confident side and the odds are with them, especially after learning how to play at both ends of the pitch.

Scoring goals has not been a problem for Galatasaray this year, as the quartet of Arda Turan, Harry Kewell, Lincoln and Milan Baros have given any defense that tried to contain them an extremely hard time. Most recently, Galatasaray was on a goal-scoring spree, notching three goals against each of its opponents in its last three fixtures, Hacettepe, Ankaragücü and Gençlerbirliği.

Lions on a goal spree
Galatasaray’s goal scoring abilities, however, have not solely been boosted with the stunning form of its attackers, two vital changes in the back line played a huge role as well. The addition of combative midfielders Barış Özbek and Mehmet Topal, who both return to the squad from injury, will relieve the front line players, who can solely direct their energies to the attack. Özbek and Topal have also contributed to the attacks, passing quickly to the front after winning the ball.

That is the reason Galatasaray goes in to the game as favorite, despite the absence of Australian winger Kewell to injury. When playing on its home ground, the Ali Sami Yen Stadium, Galatasaray has not lost a game this year, this record also gives the team confidence.

Eagles' erratic form
On the other hand, Beşiktaş is still trying to sustain consistent form. Despite a morale boosting 1-0 win over Ankaragücü last weekend, the lack of results in big games is a thorn in the Black Eagles’ side. In previous games against the other five teams in the top seven, Beşiktaş could only get two points from draws with Sivasspor and Trabzonspor, and lost at the hands of arch-rival Fenerbahçe and solid Anatolian teams Kayserispor and Ankaraspor.

Considering all three defeats were during the spell of Mustafa Denizli, who replaced Ertuğrul Sağlam after the sixth week of the season, another big game frustration is highly likely to raise questions about the Turkish coach’s performance.

Denizli’s attacking mentality has not translated into goals for Beşiktaş yet and the coach apparently faces some problems in team defense. Statistically speaking, Beşiktaş rarely manages to score more than one goal, this has happened only three times in nine games under Denizli to be more exact. The record on the defensive end is not bright either, as the number of clean sheets in that period is only three.

Maybe, however, this will be Beşiktaş’s main game trump. The Black Eagles’ backs are to the wall and they have no other option than to get a positive result at Galatasaray, who will survive even if it drops a point against its local rival. With current form considered, Galatasaray may be the clear favorite, but it is that unpredictable character that makes derbies worth watching.

Sunday’s game at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium kicks off at 7 p.m.