The UEFA Futsal Cup elite round kicks off on Wednesday with all but one of the four four-team groups containing two sides who have competed in past final tournaments.
In 2006/07 the old two-legged final was replaced by a four-team final tournament which, that year, was hosted by Murcia FS and won by MFK Dinamo. Both those sides – who have made strong domestic starts – are back at the Pabellón de Deportes in Murcia for elite round Group C, also involving Energy Lviv and FK Nikars Riga from Wednesday.
Also representing Spain are holders FC Barcelona, in Slovenia for Group A against FC Litija, MNK Split and 2010 bronze medallists Araz Naxçivan. That section begins on Wednesday, too, as does the competitive-looking Group B where four-time semi-finalists Kairat Almaty must negotiate fellow competition stalwart Slov-Matic Bratislava and FK EP Chrudim plus KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac, staging the games in Serbia.
A day later Group D commences in Georgia hosted by the only club to have entered all 12 editions of this competition, Iberia Star Tbilisi. They are yet to make the finals, however, in common with opponents Győri ETO. Of the other two teams in the group, Luparense C/5 were fourth in 2010, the year the competition was won by SL Benfica – like Murcia, Barcelona and Kairat, the Portuguese side are making their seasonal bow having received a bye past the first two stages as top seeds.
The four group winners will advance to the knockout finals in late April. The finals hosts will be picked from among their number.
Group A (10–13 October): FC Barcelona (ESP, holders), FC Litija (SVN)*, Araz Naxçivan (AZE), MNK Split (CRO)
Group B (10–13 October): Kairat Almaty (KAZ), KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac (SRB)*, Slov-Matic Bratislava (SVK), FK EP Chrudim (CZE)
Group C (10–13 October): Murcia FS (ESP)*, MFK Dinamo (RUS), Energy Lviv (UKR), FK Nikars Riga (LVA)
Group D (11–14 October): SL Benfica (POR), Luparense C/5 (ITA), Győri ETO FC (HUN), Iberia Star Tbilisi (GEO)*
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