Betar to meet Bnei Yehuda in Premier League opener

New Betar coach Yitzhak Schum will be hoping for a good result to kick off his team's campaign.

ben shushan betar 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
ben shushan betar 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israeli Premier League champion Betar Jerusalem will begin its title defense against Tel Aviv's Bnei Yehuda at Teddy Stadium on August 18, while Guy Luzon's Hapoel Tel Aviv travels to Maccabi Netanya on the first weekend of the 2007/08 season. The schedule, released by the Israel Football Association on Monday, offered some mouthwatering games in the opening weeks. New Betar coach Yitzhak Schum will be hoping for a good result to kick off his team's campaign, knowing the yellow and black faces a tricky trip to Bloomfield to play Hapoel Tel Aviv on the second weekend. Schum will, however, be relishing the opportunity to get one over on Hapoel, the club that sacked him midway through last season. Luzon will need to boost his squad over the summer ahead of the big game on August 25 as striker Elyaniv Barda has already left the club for Belgian side Genk, captain Yossi Abuksis has retired and midfielder Salim Toemah is expected to leave. Both teams will have already started their season with Betar competing in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers at the end of July and Hapoel Tel Aviv in the UEFA Cup. Maccabi Haifa will have its work cut out when it welcomes last season's National League runner up Bnei Sachnin to Kiryat Eliezer on the first day. In stark contrast to Sachnin's promotion campaign, last season was massively disappointing for Haifa, which finished fifth in the league standings and will have to compete in the Inter Toto Cup in early July to have any chance of qualifying for European competition. The greens have not yet drastically added to their squad. Their fans will be hoping that leftback Roni Gafni, who has signed from Betar Jerusalem, will have a better season than he did last term, when he was was dropped in favor of veteran defender David Amsalem. The opening weekend will no doubt be of massive excitement for fans of Hapoel Kiryat Shmona, whose team hosts Maccabi Herzliya in its first ever game in the top division. Kiryat Shmona, which finished first in the National League last season, four points ahead of Sachnin, has already brought in goalkeeper Shavit Elimelech from Hapoel Tel Aviv. Sachnin and Kiryat Shmona face each other at Sachnin's Doha stadium on the second weekend. Although Hapoel Tel Aviv will play in the first mini-derby against Bnei Yehuda on September 1, it won't be until the ninth match day of the season on November 3 when the first big Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Hapoel Tel Aviv derby will be held at Bloomfield. Meanwhile, former Maccabi Tel Aviv 'keeper Tvrtko Kale, who moved to Betar on Sunday, will welcome his former team to Teddy Stadium on October 20 in what is sure to be a fiery encounter. Each of the twelve teams in the Israel Premier League play each other three times in the 33 game season . The second round of games begins on December 1 with Betar visiting Bloomfield in Tel Aviv to play Bnei Yehuda, while the third round will start on March 1. The season will finish on May 17, exactly three weeks before the start of Euro 2008 which begins in Basle, Switzerland on June 7.