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(photo credit: AP)
The 2007/08 season will officially kick-off in Kiryat Shmona on Saturday evening with local side Ironi's match against Maccabi Herzliya.
Kiryat Shmona will be playing its first ever match in the Premier League after securing promotion by finishing top of the National League last season.
The Israel Football Association had originally told Ironi that it will not be able to play its home matches in Kiryat Shmona as its stadium fell short of Premier League standard.
Last minute improvements, however, have convinced the IFA to approve the stadium and allow the team to host Herzliya in the historic encounter on Saturday.
Maccabi Haifa will look to get its campaign off to a winning start when it hosts the promoted Bnei Sakhnin at Kiryat Eliezer on Saturday.
Haifa will be playing its first match without Israel international Roberto Colautti, who flew to Germany on Thursday to finalize his transfer to second division side Borussia Monchengladbach. Maccabi will receive 1.5 million euros for the striker, but will be bitterly disappointed at losing one of the best forwards in the league.
"I was on my way to a pre-season match against Tirat Hacarmel when I was told that Haifa and Monchengladbach have agreed on a fee," Colautti said. "It's not easy to leave. I had three amazing years at Maccabi Haifa, the best of my life, but I decided to leave because I wanted to further my career.
"My goal is to help the team to promotion this year and play in the Bundesliga next season. Eventually I would also like to play in other European leagues."
Haifa will also be without defensive midfielder Xavier Dirceu, who signed with Maccabi Petah Tikva on Thursday after being released from the club. "We've added an excellent player to our squad who will help us fill our promise to the fans to end the season in the top four," Petah Tikva chairman Shino Zuaretz said.
Petah Tikva hosts Hapoel Kfar Saba on Saturday, but Dirceu will not be making his debut as coach Yossi Mizrahi decided to give the player a few more days to settle in the club before playing his first match.
On Sunday, defending champion Betar Jerusalem hosts Bnei Yehuda at Teddy Stadium. Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Netanya, who played in the UEFA Cup on Thursday night, will all play their first match of the season on Monday. Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Ashdod SC and Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Maccabi Netanya.
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