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KARACHI, Dec 25: The seventh edition of the HBL Karachi United Schools Championship (KUSC) will kick off on Monday with defending champions Karachi Grammar School (KGS) facing Army Public School in the opening fixture at the Baloch Mujahid Stadium.

At the draw held at Southshore School, five-time champions KGS who were the seeded team in Group ‘A’ were joined by Army Public School, Nixor College and Foundation Public School in the toughest of the four groups.

Former KGS star Kareem Kerai will lead the Nixor team who are being tipped as one of the favourites along with KGS, St Patricks, Southshore and 2009-10 champions Lyceum.

KU officials Khwaja Obaid Ilyas and Furkan Ali conducted the draw and confirmed that they expected this year’s event to be the toughest and best ever.

The seeded teams were joined in the main draw by the likes of Foundation Public School, Beaconhouse PECHS, BVS Parsi High School and others.

Group ‘B’ comprises last year’s surprise runners-up Southshore, City School PAF, Bayview High and Beaconhouse Jubilee Campus.

Beaconhouse Jubilee, who have previously consistently reached the quarter-finals, are expected to go through to the knockout round this year as well along with Southshore, although City PAF and Bayview will be keen to upset the form book.

Lyceum led by Taha Rehman appear to have been handed a relatively easier passage to the quarters as they are placed in Group ‘C’ along with BVS Parsi High School, Beaconhouse PECHS and Commecs.

Lyceum had broken KGS’ strong hold on the title in the fifth edition of the event, when a strong outfit led by then captain Daniyal Mirza had shocked KGS 4-3 in the final.

However, last year, they were unexpectedly beaten by Southshore in the semis.

The last group, i.e., group ‘D’ features twice runners-up, St Patricks High School joined by Beaconhouse Gulshan, St Michaels and Aga Khan Secondary High School.

The group matches will run from Dec 26 to Jan 3, 2012, with the top two teams from each group qualifying for the quarter-finals.

The semis and finals are scheduled for the second week of January.