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Time to kick off Israeli soccer campaign

CM 26/08/2021


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The Israel Premier League soccer season gets under way on Saturday as 14 teams in the country’s top division will look to entertain fans across the country as far north as Kiryat Shmona and as deep south as Beersheba.
Maccabi Haifa will be the team to beat as it was last campaign while Maccabi Tel Aviv will challenge the Greens as it looks to retake the crown while Hapoel Beersheba will make some serious noise as well after restocking its squad.
Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Nof Hagalil make their long awaited return to the Premier League as they will both look to surprise opponents throughout the season.

Just like last year, the league will consist of 26 regular season matches with each team playing home and away against the other 13 clubs. At that point, the league will be split into two halves, and the top six will take part in the Championship Playoffs as the teams will battle it out both home and away versus the other five clubs for a total of 10 games, 36 overall, for not only the league title but also one of the four European spots.
The bottom eight teams will play each other once as the last two clubs will try to avoid relegation to the Leumit League.
Here is a club-by-club breakdown of what to expect over the next few months:

Maccabi Haifa

The defending champion will look to take the title once again under arguably the best Israeli coach in Barak Bachar. While the Greens lost striker Nikita Rukavytsya, who has yet to sign with a new team, owner Yankele Shachar made sure that his team’s scoring prowess would not dry up by bringing in Israeli international Ben Sahar and former Ashdod marksman Dean David.
Omer Atzili will be with the club for a full season after joining the team in the middle of last campaign, Tjarron Chery will continue as well while the addition of Ali Mohamed from Beitar Jerusalem shores up the midfield. Australian Ryan Strain helps out on the defensive side of the ball and American shot-stopper Josh Cohen, who was named the league’s outstanding player, will be in goal.
Expectations will be high from the “Green Apes” group of fans, who push the team forward from the northern stand of Sammy Ofer Stadium and there is no reason to think that Haifa won’t be able to duplicate  its success from last campaign once again.

Maccabi Tel Aviv

The yellow-and-blue will open the season with Patrick van Leeuwen guiding it as the head coach after the interim tag was lifted by owner Mitch Goldhar in the offseason. The Dutchman had taken over from Giorgos Donis after the latter struggled in the Israeli League and van Leeuwen came in and did a masterful job of taking a disjointed Maccabi and bringing it into contention to battle for the league title all the way to the final matchday.
However, so far this season the club has had a brutal time finding the back of the goal with the departure of Yonatan Cohen to Pisa in Italy and the loss of Serbian frontman Aleksandar Pesic. The yellow-and-blue signed Bnei Sakhnin’s up-and-coming striker Osama Khalaila as well as adding Croatian Stipe Perica on loan from Watford while also reloading the midfield with Eden Shamir, who returns to Israel from Belgium.
Defensive foreigners Enric Saborit, Andres Geraldes and Luis Hernandez all stayed on as did ’keeper Daniel Tenenbaum, who has been out with an injury and COVID-19. In his stead, youngster Daniel Peretz has done an admirable job so far helping the club through UEFA Conference League qualifying.

Hapoel Beersheba

The Southern Reds made wholesale changes to their squad as head coach Roni Levy begins his first full season with the club. Ariel Harush takes over in goal for his second stint with the club, Eugene Ansah will provide firepower up front after arriving from Kiryat Shmona, Italian Davide Petrucci will be a key cog in the midfield while centrer-back Hatem Abd Elhamed returns to Israel after a short spell with Celtic in Scotland.
Beersheba also brought on two important and influential veterans from Maccabi Tel Aviv in striker Itay Shechter and central defender Eitan Tibi along with Dor Micha, who spent last year in Cyprus. Together with holdovers in captain Miguel Vitor, Elton Acolatse and Ramzi Safouri, there’s no question that this version of Beersheba will be a threat to finish at the top of the table.

Ashdod SC

Head coach Ran Ben Shimon will be put to the test once more as he will try to duplicate his success from last season, when he led the port city squad to a European place to the surprise of many. Ben Shimon will again rely on many African players, who always seem to mature and play their best soccer under the Israeli bench boss both locally and abroad.
Winger Abdul Mugees, forward Fahad Bayo, midfielder Moussa Bagayoko along with defenders Timothy Awany and  Montari Kahameni will be huge pieces for Ashdod. Serbian Nenad Cvetkovic will be a rock on central defense as Israeli ’keeper Yoav Gerafi along with Yakov Brihen, Tom Ben Zaken and Mohamed Knaanan will be crucial in the club’s success.

Beitar Jerusalem

The Capital City squad had an interesting offseason, to say the least, as owner Moshe Hogeg brought in a new head coach from Holland in Erwin Koeman, the brother of Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman. As the season begins, the yellow-and-black is still in the process of building its roster for the new campaign and is in desperate need of finding players who can put the ball into the back of the goal.
Niv Zrihen joins the team from Ashdod to help shore up the midfield while forwards Richmond Boakye from Ghana and Edwin Gyasi from the Netherlands, who just came on board over the past couple of weeks, will hopefully answer the goal-scoring issues that Beitar has had throughout the preseason.
On the defensive side, ’keeper Itamar Nitzan will once again tend to the goal and newcomer Josua Mejias from Venezuela will anchor the back line.

Maccabi Petah Tikva

Petah Tikva may have sold starlet Liel Abada to Celtic in Scotland, but the well is certainly not dry for head coach Guy Luzon as there are a number of other rising stars in the club’s youth system that will step into Abada’s place this coming season. Arad Bar and Or Blorain will be two of the players who will look to make their mark at the Moshava Stadium and help the club repeat recent success.
Dor Jan returns to Israel after a very short stint in Portugal along with striker James Adeniyi, who played with Kiryat Shmona last season. Those two, along with Slovakian newcomer Jaroslav Mihalik, will hopefully provide the offensive punch to help the club fight for a European spot.

Maccabi Netanya

The Diamond City side will once again have Dutchman Raymond Atteveld as its head coach and the goal this season will be to advance to the Championship Playoffs and fight for a European spot after having just missed out on doing so last campaign.
There is still a big question mark as to where star midfielder Gaby Kanichowsky will play this season as he looks to move abroad, but there is still plenty of firepower available with the signing of Serbian striker Igor Zlatanovic. Veterans Almog Cohen, Hen Ezra and ’keeper Dani Amos will continue with the club and they will be complimented with Shir Tzedek and Raz Shlomo on defense.

Hapoel Tel Aviv

Nir Klinger’s squad will try and build on last season’s positive finish as it has brought on board a number of savvy veterans, including former Beitar Jerusalem captain Idan Vered as well as Brazilian striker Lucio. The Reds will also have two Shlomi Azoulay’s on the roster as both the striker and midfielder will feature for the same club this season, while there will be a pair of up-and-coming Shay’s in Shay Ayzen and Shay Elias. Add to the mix youngster Denny Gruper along with veterans Dan Einbinder, Adi Gottlieb, Ben Bitton and Lithuanian shot-stopper Ernestas Setkus, and Hapoel Tel Aviv will be a threat game-in and game-out against any team in the league.

Hapoel Hadera

Menachem Koretzky’s club is built in his image – a hard working, blue collar team full of players who will lay it all out on the line for their boss while not backing down from anyone or anybody. Hadera may not have much in terms of star power, but the club will stand toe-to-toe with every single team in the league from Maccabi Haifa to Beitar Jerusalem.
Brazilian midfielder Gustavo Marmentini will once again orchestrate the attack while Maxim Plakuschenko will be relied upon as well. Israeli veteran forwards Shoval Gozlan, Omer Fadida and Mohammed Ghadir will provide the offense while Tal Kahila, Menashe Zalka and Jonathan Cisse will anchor the defense.

Bnei Sakhnin

Sharon Mimer will begin his first full campaign at the helm of Sakhnin and he has stocked up his squad with a number of solid recruits in order to make some noise in the Premier League this season. Israelis Anthony Varenne and Raz Stain along with imports Ibrahima Conte and Richard Gadze will supply the offense with a revamped strike force consisting of Beram Kayal, Marwan Kabha and Moti Barshatzki will be relied upon in the midfield. Veteran stalwart shot-stopper Mahmoud Kandil will begin his 15th season in the Sakhnin goal.

Hapoel Haifa

Veteran bench boss Elisha Levy has the Carmel Reds humming for success as he begins his first full season as the head coach of owner Yoav Katz’s squad. Alon Turgeman, Nes Zamir and Dudu Alterovich will be up front while Slovenian Alen Ozbolt, Hanan Maman, Tomer Altman and Gal Arel will man the midfield as a mix of veterans and youngsters will look to impress. In goal will be Ohad Levita, who comes up from Hapoel Beersheba and will be in charge of a tough and experience-laden defensive corps.

Ironi Kiryat Shmona

Rookie head coach Amir Nussbaum was handed the keys to the northern capital’s squad as chairman Izzy Sheratzky had no fear in appointing a first-year manager, which has been something he has done on numerous occasions including giving Barak Bachar his first shot in charge a decade ago. However, Nussbaum will have a tough go with a very thin squad that will once again feature Lithuanian ’keeper Dziugas Bartkus together with midfielders Roie Kehat and Adrian Rotchet while much of the scoring load will be on the shoulders of Mohammed Shaker.

Hapoel Jerusalem

It has been over 20 years since Hapoel Jerusalem featured in the top division, but it is now back after pushing hard over the past decade to return to the promised land with a club that is fan owned. After having built up a new and young support base, the capital city Reds will look to make noise under head coach Ziv Arie, who will undoubtedly play a hard-nosed style with a club that will attempt to take as many points as it can to ensure that it wasn’t just a one-hit wonder in the Premier League. Strikers William Agada and veteran Idan Shemesh will be relied upon for scoring while Ruslan Barsky from Maccabi Tel Aviv will help out in the midfield. Still, Arie will have his hands full trying to keep his newly promoted team from languishing near the bottom of the table.

Hapoel Nof Hagalil

The other newly promoted club Hapoel Nof Hagalil, will also look to survive after having not played in the Premier League for more than a decade, when it was under the name Nazareth Illit. Veteran head coach Yaron Hochenboim will certainly have a challenge in his hands, but he made sure to bring in a solid ’keeper in Stefan Marinovic from New Zealand, who played in the Australian League as well as in North America’s Major League Soccer. Also on board are forwards Kevaughn Frater, who moved up north from Maccabi Netanya, and youngster Stav Nachmani, who is on loan from Maccabi Haifa.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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CM

The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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