Once again this season most observers are predicting a four-way title race in the Moroccan top flight between reigning champions Raja Casablanca, local rivals Wydad Casablanca, OC Khouribga and FAR. With the three challengers having each won the championship once over the past four years and spent big to reinforce their squads pre-season, expect competition to be fierce when the action kicks off this week.
Raja Casablanca start the new season with a new coach a squad vastly different to the one that won the title. Brazilian Carlos Mozer, who played in the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™, has taken over the coaching reins from Portuguese Jose Romao and aims to build on his predecessor's success. To this end, he has strengthened his team with the signing of Moroccan international Soufiane Alloudi on loan from Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates.
His only other acquisition has been the defensive midfielder Abderrahmane Mssassi, while the former international forward Mohamed Armoumen has moved to Wydad and goalkeeper Mohamed Amine Bourkadi has gone on loan to Widad Fez.
It is widely felt that Raja can expect some serious competition for the title, especially if their CAF Champions League commitments stretch their resources.
The biggest challenge to Raja this season may come from local rivals Wydad, whose big-name signings in the off season included those of Mohamed Armoumen from Raja and Abdelhaq Ait Laarif from the UAE club Ajman.
Wydad coach Badou Zaki has also brought in the Congolese player Lys Mouithys from French outfit FC Libourne, Malian Boubacar Coulibaly from Germany's SV Wehen and Ahmed Ajeddou from Alahly Tripoli. Determined to regain the crown they last won three years ago, Wydad have prepared thoroughly for the coming season by way of an international friendly tournament with Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasary and Egypt's Al Ahly.
FAR Rabat, for their part, have appointed established Belgian coach Walter Meeuws in their quest to add to their record 12 league titles. They have strengthened their squad with the purchase of Mohamed Jawad from CODM Meknes, Abderrahmane Ellaabi from AS Sale and Hassan Bouizgar from OC Khouribga, while Mustapha Allaoui, their top scorer last season, has left for Guingamp in France.
Meanwhile OC Khouribga, who won their one and only league title two years ago, have appointed Youssef Almarini as coach and signed a number of Moroccan players in their bid for further success.
The best of the rest
Difaa El Jadida broke the hegemony of the big four last year when they finished runners-up to champions Raja, and they hope to continue to challenge this season. The club have signed Togolese defender Aklimsola Boussari from Enugu Rangers (Nigeria) as well as Soufiane Gadoum and Ahmed Chagou from Rachad Bernoussi, and Largou Ibrahim from OC Khouribga.
Moghreb Tetouan are also expected to provide serious competition for the big four, having acquired Walid Regragui and his veteran team-mate Bouchaib Al Moubarki from French club Grenoble and Ahmed Talbi and Abderrahim Essaidi from Wydad.
Players to watch
Among those worth following closely are a number of prodigal sons returning to the Botola. Rafa's international striker Soufiane Alloudi will be out to regain the form which earned him a move to Al Ain, while Bouchaib Al Moubarki expects his considerable experience to benefit Moghreb Tetouan.
The new season will also be the chance for some newly arrived foreign stars, such as Lys Mouithys and Boubacar Coulibaly of Wydad, and Aklimsola Boussari of Difaa El Jadida, to make their mark.
Have your say
Will Raja make it two in a row or can Wydad succeed in wresting the title from their local rivals? Will FAR Rabat and OC Khouribga mount a challenge or can another club break into the top four? Click on ‘Add Comment' and let us know.