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DEFENDING champions Defence Force and Police will this week return to the Digicel T&T Pro League after being prevented from playing during the State of Emergency (SoE), which ran from August 21 and ended on December 5.

The return of the armed forces teams increases the number of clubs in the Pro League to eight.

Police will be first into action on Tuesday when they take on St Ann's Rangers from 6 p.m. at Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella, and Defence Force make their 2011-2012 debut from 8 p.m. on Friday against Caledonia AIA in the second match of a double-header at Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar.

"It's true. We are back," Defence Force head coach Ross Russell confirmed yesterday.

"We are about five matches behind the other teams. We have to play three matches before the Christmas break and we also have to play on Tuesday to make up."

Former Trinidad and Tobago assistant coach Russell rates the defending champs as 75 per cent fit. He said they were able to play some exhibition matches while on SOE duty, but the Pro League competition represents an entirely higher level of play.

Russell said Defence Force retain basically the same team which won the Pro League last year, but that defender Aklie Edwards and Cory Rivers are on trial in the United States and will miss the first two matches.

Four new recruits will also train with the squad for the first time this week.

"It was very hard for us to train during the State of Emergency. We have been able to play exhibition matches just about everywhere, but time alone will tell how well we get back into our rhythm," Russell said.

UPCOMING DIGICEL PRO LEAGUE MATCHES:

Tuesday December 13

6 p.m.—W Connection vs Caledonia AIA, Ato Boldon Stadium

6 p.m.—Police vs St Ann's Rangers, Manny Ramjohn Stadium

6 p.m.—North East Stars vs San Juan Jabloteh, Larry Gomes Stadium

Friday December 16

6 p.m.—St Ann's Rangers vs W Connection, Larry Gomes Stadium

8 p.m.—Defence Force vs Caledonia AIA, Larry Gomes Stadium

Saturday December 17

6 p.m.—North East Stars vs T&TEC, Manny Ramjohn Stadium

6 p.m.—San Juan Jabloteh vs Police, Larry Gomes Stadium