The long and winding road to the Kinnie League play-offs starts today with the first two matches from the MBA men's championship, this year contested by five teams.

Champions Hamrun Go Mobile will be defending the title they won so convincingly last April but will not be in action until next Sunday when they face Depiro Kyocera.

With the senior Footwork team folded, Hamrun's antagonists for the crown will all play today. Siggiewi Smina face Bupa Luxol and Depiro play against Pembroke.

Alfred Mifsud's team won the Kinnie League final series 3-1 at the end of the 2004/05 season. In the final, they clashed against Pembroke who many had rated as favourites but in the end were not able to strike a perfect formula for the dour best-of-five contest.

Pembroke lost the series 3-1 as Hamrun went on to claim the league title for the second time in their club's history, the previous success coming in 1985.

The same Kinnie League format will be retained this season as well. Teams will play each other over three rounds. The bottom-placed team after the qualifying phase is eliminated and the top four will contest the semi-finals.

The last fixture from the round robin phase, between Pembroke and Hamrun, will be played on April 9 and the first tie from the semi-finals is scheduled for April 19 (2 vs 3).

The final series gets underway on May 2.

The MBA season has already started with the women's Peugeot League some weeks in advance due to the national team's participation in the Commonwealth Games next year in Melbourne, Australia.

The men's MBA Shield was completed at the end of last month, Pembroke drawing some revenge for the 2004/05 Kinnie League upset by beating Hamrun 64-63 in the final.

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