Is­rael

Premier League

World Soccer - - Contents - By Nick Bidwell

Key dates

The reg­u­lar sea­son runs from Au­gust 19 to March 10, then splits into cham­pi­onship and rel­e­ga­tion play-off sec­tions. Early high­lights in­clude Mac­cabi Tel Aviv against Beitar Jerusalem on the open­ing week­end.

Ma­jor coach­ing changes

Af­ter five years as Mac­cabi Tel Aviv’s di­rec­tor of sport, Jordi Cruyff (right) has taken over from Lito Vidi­gal as the club’s coach.

Cham­pi­onship Chal­lengers

Ti­tle-win­ners for the last two sea­sons, Hapoel Be’er Sheva are hot favourites to make it three in a row. The only team who could real­is­ti­cally thwart them are Mac­cabi Tel Aviv, who have been run­ners-up in the past two sea­sons.

rel­e­ga­tion bat­tlers

A lack of fire­power could be fa­tal for Hapoel Ashkelon, Hapoel Ra’anana and Ash­dod. Newly pro­moted Mac­cabi Ne­tanya and Hapoel Acre in­habit the same twi­light zone: too good for the sec­ond tier; un­able to com­pete with the elite.

one to watch

Be’er Sheva fans would have been might­ily re­lieved on hear­ing that Nige­rian striker An­thony Nwakaeme turned down a move to China.

sign­ing of the sum­mer

Mac­cabi Haifa should pat them­selves on the back for sealing a deal with Grasshop­pers for 31-yearold Brazil­ian play­maker Caio. He was a ma­jor source of marks­man­ship, cre­ativ­ity and spec­ta­cle in his four years in Switzer­land.

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