NELSON Mandela Bay soccer teams Bay Stars and Highbury will kick off the new season in the Eastern Cape Vodacom League next weekend well prepared after a four-month break.
Stars finished the league in third place last season while Highbury ended 10th.
Stars technical manager Mark Tommy said the long period of recess had been frustrating for the Vodacom teams because of the uncertainty over the starting date.
"All the teams received confirmation and the fixture list this week but we have taken advantage of the long break to plan and prepare the team carefully," Tommy said.
"We've been preparing the team by engaging in friendly games with teams playing in the SAB league and some of the Vodacom teams."
He said the first games would be crucial for the players to collect maximum points to build up their momentum.
Players and the technical team were eager to get back on the field.
"Our opening games will be very challenging because the first three games will be against the top finishers last season," Tommy said.
"But the tough opening games will be an early indication of our strength after some changes in the team."
Tommy said Stars were a new- look team. The squad would be finalised by next week.
"We did exceptionally well last season considering we were a new team in the competition and we scouted players to fit our profile," Tommy said.
"We are back this season again with a much stronger and balanced team in all areas."
He said the objective of the team was to reach the playoffs so they could be promoted to the National First Division.
Stars will get proceedings under way when they host last season's Vodacom League runners- up FC Buffalo at the Gelvandale Stadium on Friday.
Meanwhile, Highbury have not changed their squad much from last season as they prepare for a clash against Cacadu United in their first game, also in Port Elizabeth next weekend.
Coach Garth Dickinson said the team's preparations had started last month.
"We had a couple of friendly matches with local teams to keep our players fit and our mission this season is to win the first games of the league because we want to finish in the top five bracket by the end of the season," Dickinson said.
"It might be a tough start to the new season for our side as we are faced with four injured players who got hurt during our friendly matches."
The venue and date for Highbury's match must still be finalised.