Soccer-Galatasaray want third straight title, Fenerbahce eye CAS
ISTANBUL Aug 16 (Reuters) - Galatasaray launch their bid for a third consecutive Turkish league title this weekend as rivals Fenerbahce and Besiktas anxiously await a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling on their match-fixing case.
Galatasaray's Fatih Terim, the most successful coach in the Turkish Super League with six championship trophies, will be looking for Didier Drogba to help build on the success of last term when they reached the Champions League quarter-finals.
However the future of last season's top goalscorer Burak Yilmaz looks uncertain, with the Galatasaray striker linked with a move to Arsenal, Liverpool or Lazio by local media.
Fenerbahce, who finished runners-up last season 10 points behind Galatasaray, will look for a fresh boost from new coach Ersun Yanal, the former national team manager, but the pending CAS ruling this month could set the tone for their season.
Fenerbahce were banned from European soccer for two years in June over domestic match-fixing, but CAS temporarily lifted the ban last month to allow them to compete in the Champions League pending the outcome of their CAS appeal.
Fenerbahce have already beaten Austrian side Salzburg and face Arsenal over two legs in the final playoff round later this month, with the winners going into the lucrative group stage.
CAS is due to make a final ruling on Fenerbahce's case by Aug. 28, the day after the second leg, raising the possibility they could reach the group stage only to be expelled.
Fenerbahce will be without forward Dirk Kuyt for their first domestic league game due to an eye injury, but the Dutchman is expected to be one of their most potent weapons this season, along with Cristian Baroni and Raul Meireles.
CAS was also set to rule at the end of August on the third major Istanbul club Besiktas, who were banned from European competition for one year in the same case but have been allowed to compete in the initial stages of the Europa League.
Domestic politics could also play a role in the mood at stadiums across Turkey this season after the introduction of bans on any slogans linked to often violent anti-government protests which swept across Turkey in June.
Amid concerns that stadiums could become a new venue for protests, Interior Minister Muammer Guler said at the end of July that the authorities would not allow any ideological or political slogans or banners at matches.
"The real issue of this season will not be football, but the crowds," Ugur Vardan, columnist at daily Radikal said.
"It's not politics but the opposition that the government wants to ban from stadiums. This is how the general picture of next season will look - people will want to continue the protests in stadiums, and the political authorities will do everything in their power to silence them," he added.
Another challenge for the Turkish clubs this season will be restrictions on the number of foreign players. In 2013-14 clubs will be restricted to having 10 foreign players on their books, with six available for squad selection in a domestic match.
Fenerbahce begin their campaign at Konyaspor on Saturday, while Galatasaray are at home to Gaziantepspor on Monday. (Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Daren Butler)
- Target stores' customers hit by major credit card attack
- UPDATE 3-Saab wins Brazil jet deal after NSA spying sours Boeing bid
- Facebook, Zuckerberg, banks must face IPO lawsuit: judge
- U.S. prosecutor defends treatment of Indian diplomat |
- Fed cuts bond buying in first step away from historic stimulus |