The 2019/20 Israel Soccer Season is upon us with many storylines and action waiting for fans right around the corner. Will the defending champs Maccabi Tel Aviv be as dominant as they were last season? Can Beitar Jerusalem, Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Beer Sheva via for league supremacy? Who will be the Hapoel Hadera Cinderella story this campaign? Will the new Bloomfield be a factor for the three Tel Aviv based teams? Here’s a rundown of all 14 teams and their offseason moves as they look to vie for this season’s crown.
Maccabi Tel Aviv – The champs made very few player personnel changes over the course of the summer, however, they lost two very significant players. Serbian goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic was sold to French side Stade de Reims after four years of service with the yellow-and-blue and right defensive back Eli Dasa was unable to come to terms with the club. Replacing Rajkovic is Greek shot stopper Andreas Gianniotis who before joining Maccabi this summer hadn’t played competitively for close to 9 months after falling out of favor at Olympiacos. Also joining the squad is defender Andre Geraldes and winger Nick Blackman who returns to the side after a one-year absence. Vladimir Ivic’s team has looked very shaky throughout the summer after crashing out of European qualifying and it will be very interesting to see how veterans Sheran Yeini, Itay Shechter and Eliran Atar will react as the new campaign gets underway.
Maccabi Haifa – Marko Balbul is relying on a youth movement with a sprinkling of veterans as the Greens begin the new season. 22-year old Neta Lavi is the new captain while Mohammed Awaed, Yarden Shua and Maxim Plachusheko all will be central figures for the club. Tjaronn Chery was Haifa’s big summer signing as the Dutch attacking midfielder comes to Israel with English Premier League experience along with having played many years in Holland’s Eredivisie. Veteran keeper Guy Haimov, defenders Allyson and Rami Gershon along with front man Nikita Rukavytsya and Yuval Ashkenazi round out the well balanced squad.
Hapoel Beer Sheva – The Southern Reds made some interesting moves in the offseason as they look to regain the league title after losing it last season. Ernestas Setkus, David Keltjens, Ramzi Safouri, Eden Shamir and Jimmy Marin are in while Ariel Harush, Hen Ezra, Hatem Abd Elhamed, John Ogu and Kevin Tapoko are out as coach Barak Bachar looked to retool his side from top to bottom. Holdovers include Ben Sahar, Maor Melikson, Nigel Hasselbaink and Niv Zrihan as the new look Beer Sheva will certainly be a factor this season.
Beitar Jerusalem – Head Coach Roni Levy and Sports Director Yossi Benayoun did a magnificent job of overhauling the team’s roster adding a number of important pieces while leaving some in place from last campaign. Despite just losing new recruit Michael Ohana for the season due to a knee injury during Toto Cup action, Shay Konstantin, Ali Muhamed, striker Shlomi Azulay and Maxim Grechkin will all be central figures for the yellow-and-black while holdovers including keeper Itamar Nitzan, Freddy Plumain, Gadi Kinda, Antoine Conte and Dan Einbinder make Beitar a threat for the title this season.
Maccabi Netanya – Arguably the biggest summer signing was Almog Cohen returning home after starring in Germany over the past six seasons. In addition to Cohen, Slobodan Drapic and Shay Barda’s squad will include Roi Kehat, Guy Melamed, veteran keeper Dani Amos along with Gabi Kanikowsky who is continuing to come into his own as a valuable asset in Israeli soccer.
Bnei Yehuda – Coach Yossi Abuksis is a miracle worker, or the best coach in Israel, period. His squad lost five key players over the last half year but they are still constant contenders game in and game out. Dor Jan, Dan Mori, Mohammed Ghadir and most significantly Ismaila Soro will feature for the Israel State Cup holders after losing the likes of Yuval Ashkenazi, Dolev Haziza, Yarden Shua, Shay Konstantin and Mavis Tchibota. The team’s system of hard-nosed work ethic defines the Hatikva neighborhood where they are beloved and revered.
Hapoel Hadera – Last season’s Cinderella side will have a very tough time repeating the feat as the team made wholesale changes including replacing coach Niso Avitan who left for Hapoel Tel Aviv with Ori Gutman. Didier Kougbenya will be heavily relied upon by the team while veteran keeper Austin Ejide will be very busy in goal.
Hapoel Tel Aviv – Maor Buzaglo, the Israeli football icon joins the squad after coming over from Beitar Jerusalam as his leadership and offensive prowess will need to be on full display for Niso Avitan’s charges if they want to be a factor this season.
Hapoel Haifa – Haim Silvas will have a healthy Almog Buzaglo at his disposal this season and that’s good news for the Carmel Reds. Add into the mix striker Eden Ben Basat, Gili Vermouth, Niso Capiloto and Idan Shemesh and Haifa will make noise once again this campaign.
Hapoel Raanana – Menachem Koretzky’s squad are always competitive and there is no reason to think they won’t cause some of the top teams trouble once again. Kayes Ganem will be relied upon up front while David Mateos will shore up the defense for the Sharon side.
Kiryat Shemona – The northern team will have Messay Dego on the sidelines and so far this pre-season he’s done an admirable job for a proud franchise. With a nice mix of veterans including Lithuanian keeper Dziugas Bartkus and Irish marksman Cillian Sheridan along with Israelis Idan Nachmias and Mohammed Shaker, Kiryat Shemona will cause problems week in and week out for teams around the country.
SC Ashdod – The port city side just escaped relegation last season and coach Ronny Awat will want to make sure that his squad won’t be in that position once again this campaign. Shoval Gozlan will provide the offensive firepower and he has done just that so far in Toto Cup play.
Hapoel Kfar Saba – Ofir Haim’s team will be prime candidates for relegation after just being promoted this past season. Owner Itzhak Shum’s squad will have problems at both ends of the pitch as veteran Omer Fadidia will be a central figure.
Sektzia Nes Tziona – Keeper Omri Glazer will be a very busy man for Amir Turjeman’s squad as the newly promoted team will have many youngsters that will be looking to prove themselves as they want to prove the critics on and become this season’s Hadera.