Between them, the four UEFA Futsal Cup elite round group winners that have qualified for the finals in late April have contrasting histories in the competition: one team with two wins from three entries, another finals regular who have won only once, a past runner-up out of the shadow of domestic rivals, and a club making their debut entry.
What connects the four is that they have each won every game they have played in Europe this season – and that FC Barcelona, Kairat Almaty, Sporting Clube de Portugal and ISK Dina Moskva are all strong contenders for the title. The hosts, picked from among the finalists, are expected to be confirmed early in 2015; we profile the quartet.
FC Barcelona (ESP, holders)
Formed: 1899 (club), 1986 (futsal team)
UEFA Futsal Cup best performance: winners (2012, 2014)
• Barcelona have lifted the title on two of their three entries, losing in the 2013 semis to Kairat.
• Reclaiming the crown last spring, they strengthened by signing Rafa Usín, Batería and Dyego.
• After topping their elite round group at home, they now aim to match Inter FS's record of three titles.
Elite round: MVFC Berettyóújfalu 4-1, Baku United FC 5-1, Lokomotiv Kharkiv 5-0 (Group D winners)
Top scorer: Wilde 4
Key players: Aicardo, Paco Sedano, Sergio Lozano, Wilde
ISK Dina Moskva (RUS)
UEFA Futsal Cup best performance: debut
• This may be Dina's UEFA debut but in the 1990s they landed seven straight Russian championships and three unofficial European cups.
• They have taken straight to this competition, the only non-seeds to win their elite round group.
• Among their squad are former UEFA Futsal Cup winners Sergei Zuev, Dmitri Prudnikov, Damir Khamadiyev and Alemao.
Main round: FC Deva 4-2, MNK Alumnus Zagreb 8-3, Futsal Team Charleroi 5-1 (Group 3 winners)
Elite round: FK EP Chrudim 3-0, Araz Naxçivan 5-4, Slov-Matic Bratislava 4-1 (Group B winners)
Top scorer: Dmitri Prudnikov 8
Key players: Alemao, Carlinhos, Esquerdinha, Dmitri Prudnikov
Kairat Almaty (KAZ)
UEFA Futsal Cup best performance: winners 2013
• Kairat are in the semi-finals for a seventh time, though their sole last-four victory came against Barcelona in Tbilisi 2013 (when MFK Dinamo were dispatched in the final).
• They lost the title in Baku last term but have since signed Brazil's Jé and Igor, a two-time winner with Barcelona.
• Their elite round goal tally of 28 was twice as much as any other group winner.
Elite round: FK Nikars Riga 11-2, Sporting Club de Paris 11-7, KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac 6-3 (Group D winners)
Top scorer: Divanei 4, Leo 4
Key players: Dinmukhambet Suleimenov, Higuita, Joan, Alexandre
Sporting Clube de Portugal (POR)
Formed: 1906 (club), 1989 (futsal team)
UEFA Futsal Cup best performance: runners-up 2011
• The hosts of the first eight-team finals in 2002, Sporting also reached the 2011 and 2012 semis.
• In 2011 they overcame Kairat in Almaty (though they could not emulate 2010 winners SL Benfica in the final), then 12 months later they fell to hosts Barcelona.
• Their 1-0 defeat of three-time champions Inter FS was the standout result of the elite round.
Elite round: Futsal Team Charleroi 5-3, FC Grand Pro Varna 8-2, Inter FS 1-0 (Group A winners)
Top scorer: Fabio Lima 4
Key players: Pedro Cary, Paulinho, Caio Japa, Alex
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