Sivasspor's impressive campaign ran out of steam this time last year but, after cementing their place at the Süper Lig summit with a 2-0 weekend victory at home to Galatasaray AŞ, their seventh successive win, there are no signs of a repeat. Galatasaray, therefore, have much to fear as they prepare for tonight's rematch as the sides go head to head in the Turkish Cup quarter-finals.
Despite having never won the Turkish title, Sivasspor are fast becoming accustomed to the view from the top of the table. They were looking down at the rest this time 12 months ago before a 4-1 defeat by Fenerbahçe SK stopped them in their tracks. They never really recovered, eventually finishing fourth. Indeed, it was the Anatolian minnows' performances against the big three – Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş JK that ultimately cost them. So far this time around, however, Bülent Uygun's team have proved their mettle. First it was September's 2-1 win over Fenerbahçe, then a draw with Beşiktaş and now, on Saturday, they ended a four-year wait for a first top-flight victory against Galatasaray.
Midfielder Sezer Badur scored in both triumphs, yet it is team captain Mehmet Yıldız who has taken on much of the responsibility in attack, weighing in with eleven goals. "Last year's setbacks are not being repeated this year," said the 27-year-old. "We have won two out of two against the big teams and earned a historic win against Galatasaray on a difficult, icy surface. Though it was really hard even to stand properly, my team-mates showed determination and ambition to earn victory. Now we will play Galatasaray in the cup. Then we need to concentrate on the league game against Kayserispor before the return leg of the cup tie. There is a hard 20-day period ahead of us. If we come through it successfully, then the future is bright."
Mehmet Yıldız interest
The future looks bright for Mehmet Yıldız himself, with Greek champions Olympiacos CFP among a host of teams casting admiring glances towards Sivasspor's star man. "Mehmet is a very good player with his quality and character both on and off the pitch," said Uygun. "Until the end of the season he is staying with us. When the season ends we will look for a solution which benefits both parties." The transfer speculation coincided with a lean spell for the striker, who has not found the net since 7 December, but not his side, the Galatasaray win their seventh in succession.
They meet the Cim Bom again this evening hoping to make it eight to take the initiative in their Turkish Cup semi-final tie as Sivasspor aim to add another piece of silverware to their cabinet, the 2005 second-division trophy currently standing a lonely vigil. "In the past a lot of teams classified as underdogs have won the cup," said the 37-year-old Uygun. "Now we want the trophy, and to fulfil that goal we must win all our games so encounters with big teams are inevitable. We are desperate to be crowned cup winners."