Decoding Europe's most exciting title race - the Turkish Super Lig
After 31 games played, the Turkish Super Lig is as finely poised as it can be. The country's big three - Galatasaray, Besiktas, and Fenerbahce are, of course, involved but last year's packages Istanbul Basaksehir - owned by the Ministry of Youth and Sports (no one's suggesting anything. Yet) - are up there again, second at the moment.
As recently as 2013/14, Basaksehir were in 1. Lig, the second division, having been relegated the previous season. In fact, the first time they played in the top division was in 2007/08.
Captained by Turkish legend Emre Belözoğlu and led by a brigade of veterans, Emmanuel Adebayor, Arda Turan, and Gael Clichy - they've played superbly all year and are looking strong through the run in.
Besiktas, the defending champions, appeared to have been distracted by their European adventures - with the loss of Cenk Tosun to Everton in January not helping at all.
Ricardo Quaresma and Anderson Talisca are still pulling strings in attack alongside Alvaro Negredo, Wagner Love (Tosun's replacement) and Ryan Babel (yeah, him of Liverpool FC fame) while Gary Medel and Pepe guard their end of the field with trademark ferociousness. Nobody's conceded fewer goals than they have - just 27.
Their neighbours Fenerbahce are just in front of them thanks to a superior attack that's banged in 66 goals. Led by the charismatic bearded keeper Volkan Demirel with Martin Skrtel and Roman Neustadter ahead of him and the temperamental magic of Mathieu Valbuena and Giuliano behind the forgotten Spaniard Roberto Soldado.
Out in front, though, is free-scoring Galatasaray with the panther Bafetimbi Gomis leading an attack that has Younnes Belhanda and Sofiane Feghouli pulling the strings. Nobody's scored more than their 70 goals this season.
Here's the top four:
1) Galatasaray - 66 Points, GD of 38
2) Istanbul Basaksehir - 65 Points, GD of 25
3) Fenerbahce - 63 Points, GD of 33
4) Besiktas - 62 points, GD of 32
Galatasaray beat Besiktas 2-0 yesterday to open up this 'gap' at the top and have Akhisar (12th), Yeni Malatyaspor (10th), and Goztepe (6th - and the only other team without a negative goal difference.
Basaksehir were beaten 2-0 by Galatasaray a fortnight ago but have put up some thumping wins to close in. They face Sivasspor (7th), Antalyaspor (14th) and Kasimpasa (9th) in their run-in.
Fenerbahce face Bursaspor (11th), Karabukspor (18th, dead last, they have 12 points; as compared to 30 for 17th place Genclerbirligi), and Konyaspor (15th) while Besiktas face Kayserispor (8th), Osmanlispor (16th), and Sivasspor (7th) next.
The two giants are in with just an outside shot, but considering how this season's gone, it'd take a fool to write them off.