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Tel-Aviv braced for big game

Sunday sees the biggest match of the season so far in Israel as Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC take on Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC in a famous local derby.

Just as AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano share their San Siro stadium in Italy, Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC and Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC share the Bloomfield stadium in Tel-Aviv. And as the Tel-Aviv derby looms on Sunday, tickets for the match at the 16,500-capacity arena are a very prized commodity indeed.

Maccabi motivation
With the two sides having both won their opening games of the season, the derby is set to be another typically full-blooded meeting between the two sides, with Maccabi particularly keen to avenge their 3-0 defeat against Hapoel in the Toto Cup last month.

Hapoel hopeful
Hapoel, meanwhile, will be full of hope after last season's encounters. Although they lost 1-0 in the opening derby game, they won the remaining two derby fixtures of the season to help them escape relegation from the Israeli top division, finishing one place behind Maccabi in ninth place.

Disappointing season
As those figures suggest, last season was a colossally disappointing one for both sides. Thus the summer brought wholesale changes in both camps with Maccabi coach Nir Klinger bringing in the big guns in the form of captain Avi Nimni - returned from two years in exile at Beitar Jerusalem FC - and Eyal Berkovic.

Season tickets
The club also signed Giovanni Rosso after four seasons with Maccabi Haifa FC, Blessing Kaku from Bolton Wanderers FC, Eugen Trica from PFC Litex Lovech and Brazilian striker Jose Duarte from Hapoel Nazareth FC. All of which prompted a huge interest in the club and record season ticket sales of 9,000.

Kashtan returns
Meanwhile, Hapoel brought back coach Dror Kashtan, who had masterminded their passage to the UEFA Cup quarter-finals four years ago. He in turn signed Walid Badier and Elyaniv Barda from Maccabi Haifa FC. Those two will face up to former team-mate Rosso - Badier's closest friend - on Sunday.

Internecine rivalry
Furthermore, two players who were released by Maccabi will have the perfect chance to get their revenge on Klinger, as Baruch Dego and John Pantsil line up for Hapoel. Moreover, there will be at least one household divided by the game as Maccabi's Tamir Cohen lines up against his cousin, Hapoel's Omer Pertez.