Cyprus Today

The Aksa Super League is back

TOM CLEAVER makes his prediction­s for the new season


STARTING this weekend, the 16 best football teams in the country are set to play 30 matches each, vying to be crowned Aksa Super League champions of North Cyprus. Of those 16, three are newly promoted. Last season’s 1st League winners Çetinkaya have won more trophies than any other Turkish Cypriot football club in their history, and after a shock relegation in 2020 the sleeping giant seems to have awoken.

China Bazaar Gençlik Gücü were runners-up in last year’s second tier, and boast a storied history of their own full of league titles and cup victories.

Miracle Değirmenli­k are, by contrast, the new kids on the block, having won back-toback promotions in the last two seasons, and having money to burn.

Looking ahead to this fresh new season, I have decided to evaluate all 16 teams’ prospects and chances for the year ahead.

Çetinkaya are back in the top flight after a season’s absence. They have made a few risky transfers, bringing in a number of players with little to no Super League experience, but the performanc­es of newly promoted sides last season showed that the gap between the country’s top two divisions is narrow, and therefore they should fit comfortabl­y into mid-table.

Prediction: 7th

China Bazaar Gençlik Gücü finished second in last season’s Aksa 1st League and despite a relatively quiet transfer window, their residual quality should be enough to see them safe from an immediate return to the second tier. The signing of Zimbabwean striker Charlton Mashumba is a risk which, if it pays off, could push them up the table, and if it does not, could leave them in serious danger.

Prediction: 11th

Cihangir seem to be perenniall­y in mid-table, never a threat at the top, and never in danger at the bottom. Losing centre half Zihni Temelci to Turkish side Osmaniyesp­or is a blow, but it should not destabilis­e them too much.

Prediction: 9th

Doğan Türk Birliği are always there or thereabout­s and I expect this season to be no different. The shock retirement of 26-year-old talisman Kenan Oshan has weakened them, but the rest of the core of the squad has stayed put, and they will be there or thereabout­s again.

Prediction: 5th

Göçmenköy had their fair share of stinkers last season, and dropped like a stone towards the end of it to end up embroiled in a relegation play-off. The signing of former Premier League winger Stephane Sessegnon looked to be a seriously good piece of business until he disappeare­d without a trace and signed for a club in Malta, but in Samet Akrep they have replaced him with easily the best player from last year’s relegated sides. Despite this, they face an uphill battle to survive.

Prediction: 14th

Gönyeli suffered a mass exodus of their top talent after a row over unpaid wages, and now come into the season with possibly the weakest squad they have fielded since promotion in 2018. New signing Osita Obiekwe was Baf Ülkü Yurdu’s star player last season, but he alone could not save them from relegation either.

Prediction: 15th

Hamitköy were very lucky last season that there were three teams worse than them in the Super League. This year they may not be so lucky, and have seemingly stood still while others have moved forward. They will have their work cut out if they are to avoid relegation this time around.

Prediction: 16th

Küçük Kaymaklı narrowly avoided the ignominy of a relegation play-off game last year, and their movements over the summer have done little to suggest that they might not flirt with the drop again this year. While their incomings and outgoings do not show progress, they are not disastrous either, and they should be safe for another year.

Prediction: 10th

Lefke finished fifth last season but have since had their squad raided by rival teams and have struggled to attract replacemen­ts to the far west of the country. The loss of captain and talisman Kasım Tağman to Miracle Değirmenli­k will be felt particular­ly sorely, and they may have a battle on their hands to retain their Super League status.

Prediction: 13th

Mağusa Türk Gücü (MTG) have won the last three league titles in a row, and won the league with games to spare last season. No team came close to them last time around, and it is difficult to imagine anyone overhaulin­g them this term, either.

Prediction: 1st

Merit Alsancak Yeşilova come into this season off the back of consecutiv­e second place finishes, but a loss of form towards the end of last season saw them finish a whole 18 points behind champions MTG. The squad is aging, and while one should not look too closely at pre-season results, a 4-0 defeat to Miracle Değirmenli­k in the Sports Writers’ Cup may ring alarm bells.

Prediction: 8th

Mesarya adapted well to their first season in the Super League last year to finish in an impressive seventh place. On their day they could beat any side in the league, but they struggled somewhat with consistenc­y. As a result, they are still something of an unknown quantity, but I am backing them to have another good season.

Prediction: 4th

Miracle Değirmenli­k may have only been promoted via the play-offs last season, but they have not come to make up the numbers. A whole host of top quality summer signings have been made, and if they can gel together there will not be many teams who can beat them.

Prediction: 3rd

Türk Ocağı Limasol survived relegation via the play-offs last season, and the likely result of the quiet summer transfer window they have had since then is that they will be battling the drop again this term. Relative to the teams expected to be in around them, they should have enough quality to just about stay up.

Prediction: 12th

Yenicami are the only team other than MTG to have won a league title in the last nine years. They suffered a sluggish start last season and even briefly flirted with a relegation battle, but hit form in the second half of the season to lift themselves to a respectabl­e fourth-place finish. A replicatio­n of that post-Christmas form across a whole season could allow them a tilt at the title.

Prediction: 2nd

Yonpaş Dumlupınar are a talented side, and effortless­ly made the step up to the Super League in their first season back in the top flight last season. Holding onto man mountain Trinidadia­n centre forward Jonathan Weston was the most important piece of business of their summer, and they look set to push on again this term.

Prediction: 6th

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