Israel Premier League Football Preview 2021/22

Aug 24, 2021 | Football

The Israel Premier League soccer season gets underway on Saturday as 14 teams in the country’s top division will look to entertain fans across the country as far north as Kiryat Shemona and as far south to Beer Sheva.

Maccabi Haifa will be the team to beat as they were last campaign while Maccabi Tel Aviv will challenge them as they look to retake the crown while Hapoel Beer Sheva will make some serious noise as well after restocking their squad. Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Nof HaGalil make their long awaited return to the Premier League as they will both look to surprise their opponents throughout 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, 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 ten games, 36 overall for not only the league title but also one of the four European spots. The bottom 8 teams will play each other once as the last two clubs will try and avoid relegation to the Leumit League.

Maccabi Haifa
The defending champions Maccabi Haifa will look to take the championship once again under arguably the best Israeli coach 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 goal scoring prowess would not dry up by bringing in Israeli international Ben Sahar and former Ashdod marksman Dead David.

Omer Atzili will be with the club for a full season after joining the team in the middle of last campaign, Tjaron 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” 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 their success from last campaign once again.

Maccabi Tel Aviv
The Yellow & Blue will open the season with Patrick van Leeuwen guiding them as the head coach after the interim tag was lifted by owner Mitch Goldhar in the off-season. 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 them 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 & Blue signed Bnei Sakhnin’s up and coming striker Osama Khalaila as well as Croatian Stipe Perica on loan from Watford while also reloading the midfield with Eden Shamir who returns to Israel from Belgium.

The 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 Beer Sheva
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 Shemona, Italian Davide Petrucci will be a key cog in the midfield while centre back Hatem Abd Elhamed returns to Israel after a short spell with Celtic in Scotland.

Beer Sheva 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 Beer Sheva will be a threat to finish at the top of the table.

Ashdod FC
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 on the table surprising 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 who has also coached 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 off season 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 are still in the process of building their roster for the new campaign and are 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 of their game keeper Itamar Nitzan will once again tend to the goal and newcomer Josua Mejias from Venezuela will anchor the back line.

Maccabi Petah Tikva
Maccabi 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 their youth system that will step into Abada’s place this coming season. Arad Bar and Or Blorain will be two of those 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 strikers James Adeniyi who played with Kiryat Shemona last season along with Slovakian newcomer Jaroslav Mihalik will 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 their head coach and their 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 they have 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 board 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 into the mix up 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 that will lay it all out on the line for their boss while not backing down from anyone or anybody. Hapoel Hadera may not have any 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 Bnei 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, Beram Kayal, Marwan Kabha and Moti Barshatzki will be relied upon in the midfield while 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 Beer Sheva and will be in charge of a tough experienced laden defensive corps.

Hapoel Kiryat Shemona
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 which will once again feature veteran Lithuanian keeper Dziugas Bartkus together with midfielders Roie Kehat and Adrian Rotchet while much of the scoring load will be on the shoulders Mohammed Shaker.

Hapoel Jerusalem
It’s been over twenty years since Hapoel Jerusalem featured in the top division but they are 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 fan base, the capital city Reds will look to make noise under head coach Ziv Arie who will undoubtedly play a hard nosed style that will attempt to take as many points as they can to ensure that they aren’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 but 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 they were 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 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 on loan from Maccabi Haifa.

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