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Araz threaten Barcelona in Slovenia

Published: Monday 8 October 2012, 10.00CET
Former semi-finalists Araz Naxçivan seem the biggest threat to holders FC Barcelona in elite round Group A, but hosts FC Litija and MNK Split are relishing the challenge.
Araz threaten Barcelona in Slovenia
Vitaliy Borisov's new contract is a boost to Araz ©Csaba Krizsán

Photos

Published: Monday 8 October 2012, 10.00CET

Araz threaten Barcelona in Slovenia

Former semi-finalists Araz Naxçivan seem the biggest threat to holders FC Barcelona in elite round Group A, but hosts FC Litija and MNK Split are relishing the challenge.

FC Barcelona (ESP, holders)
Winning the UEFA Futsal Cup in their debut appearance last term marked Barcelona as the dominant force in Europe. They were equally impressive on the domestic front, where they triumphed in the Liga, the Copa España and the Copa del Rey. Despite waving goodbye to legendary captain and pivot Javi Rodríguez since then, the Azulgrana strengthened with the arrival of Spanish international Aicardo.

Barcelona are finding their feet this season following a surprising Spanish Super Cup semi-final defeat by Murcia FS and are top of the Liga. Libero Sergio Lozano predicts improvements. "Maybe we don't yet have that spark in front of goal that you get towards the end of a season, but we're getting better and growing in confidence," he said.

Main round: bye
Key Players:
Jordi Torras, Aicardo, Wilde

FC Litija (SVN, hosts)
Slovenian double-winners for the last two years, Litija have regularly proved themselves among the top European clubs despite their amateur status. They have again made the last 16 this time, topping their main round group ahead of the likes of Iberia Star Tbilisi. They hosted that section at home but will stage this group 40km away in the bigger hall at Lasko.

Coach Tomi Horvat said: "We could not get more attractive and stronger opponents in the elite round. Barcelona are the best team in the world. The other two teams, Araz from Azerbaijan and Split from Croatia, are nearer our ranking. I believe we will fight for at least second place. The teams know each other very well. The visit of Barcelona is a reward for our fans and players that will compete with the top players in the world."

Main round: Athina '90 Athens 7-2, Paris Sporting Club 3-3, Iberia Star Tbilisi 2-1 (Group 4 winners)
Key players:
Igor Osredkar, Alen Fetič, Damir Puškar, Milivoje Simeunović, Damir Pertič

Araz Naxçivan (AZE)
The 2010 bronze medallists progressed through the elite round despite a default 5-0 defeat by EID Futsal, awarded because Araz fielded suspended keeper Laercio Buranello. Rodrigo De Melo's side have secured Vitaliy Borisov and welcomed back Biro Jade, so the squad looks solid and ambitions are flying high. "It was a tough group and the technical loss almost proved costly," said Borisov. "The elite round awaits now with Barcelona as our main opponents. We can beat the other clubs and will try to give Barça a battle. Araz have proved we are strong enough to play anyone."

Main round: EID Futsal 0-5 (forfeit), Club Futsal Eindhoven 4-3, Győri ETO FC 5-5 (Group 6 runners-up)
Key players:
Vitaliy Borisov, Biro Jade, Karlos Alberto

MNK Split (CRO)
Split achieved their goal and went through the main round as runners-up in the group they hosted. "We are proud to reach an elite round, we are among the top 16 teams in Europe and now we will try to achieve a miracle there," said player-coach Ivica Osibov. "I will tell my guys that we need to do our best and to try to create a miracle." The team is mostly changed compared to last season and there are not many experienced players now.

"It was obvious when we lost 11-1 against Dinamo [in the main round], there are only few of us with much experience, but they learned something from that and it will be better in Slovenia. We are playing the first match against Barcelona, they are big favourites, but we will do our best. The second match against the hosts will be very important for us as we see our chance there."

Main round: Akademia FC Pniewy 5-0 (defaut), Lidselmash Lida 1-0, MFK Dinamo 1-11 (Group 5 runners-up)
Key players:
Branko Laura, Ivica Osibov, Andrija Bogdanović

Reporters: Paul Bryan, Rok Šinkovc, Erkin Ibragimov & Elvir Islamović

Last updated: 09/10/12 10.30CET

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