21-team Turkish Süper Lig ready to open new season

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The first game of the new season in Turkish football’s top flight, Süper Lig, will be played on Sept. 11 raising the curtain on the first-ever 21-team competition in the league’s history.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) announced in July, days after the 2019-2020 season delayed by the pandemic, that no team will be relegated to the lower division in the country’s professional leagues.

With all 18 teams keeping their spots in the Süper Lig and three winning promotion from the First League, there will be a total of 21 teams in the top flight this season, letting one team rest on every match day.

All games will be played behind closed doors, at least in the first half of the season, after the TFF shelved its plans to have a limited number of spectators in the stadiums from October due to the Health Ministry’s opposition.

Players and club staff, as well as journalists to attend the games, will be frequently tested for COVID-19.

In the first game of the new season, Fenerbahçe will visit Rizespor on Sept. 11.

Having finished a disappointing season in the seventh spot, the Istanbul club will be out of European competition this year and will solely concentrate on winning its first league title since 2014.

But Rizespor has no intention of allowing its opponent to have a smooth start in the competition.

“Fenerbahçe is a good team, but we are also a good team and we have prepared very well for the game,” the Black Sea side’s Croatian coach Stjepan Tomas told reporters following a training session.

“I’m generally happy with my team and it will be great if we can start the season with a victory over Fenerbahçe.”

Despite having financial troubles and being limited to a total spending limit of 177 million Turkish Liras ($23.7 million) for the entire season by the TFF, Fenerbahçe has renewed its squad by bringing in 11 new players, mostly on free transfers and sending away 12.

Defending champion Başakşehir opens the season on Sept. 14 at Hatayspor, which won the First League last season to win promotion.

Trabzonspor, which finished runner-up last season but was not allowed to play in Champions League qualifications due to a ban by the UEFA, will on Sept. 13 host Beşiktaş, which finished third in the league and replaced Trabzonspor in the competition before being knocked out by Panathinaikos.

Both teams saw more players leave then those coming in and they will have to cope up with the difficulty of having limited squads.

Sivasspor and Alanyaspor, which were surprise teams of the Süper Lig that finished in the fourth and fifth spots, will be clashing in Sivas on Sept. 12.

Also on Sept. 12, Galatasaray, which finished in the seventh spot last season after winning only one game in the eight games played after the pandemic break, opens its campaign at home in Gaziantep.

Elsewhere in Week one games, newcomer Karagümrük hosts Malatyaspor, Denizlispor visits Göztepe, Ankaragücü plays Erzurumspor at home, Kayserispor entertains Kasımpaşa and Gençlerbirliği travels to Antalyaspor.

Konyaspor will be the first team to have a rest day.

The Süper Lig season is planned to be completed on May 16, 2021, with no winter break and nine weeks of midweek matches.

Hurriyet Daily News

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