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Stiff challenge for Kairat

Group C kicks off the elite round with three-time semi-finalists Kairat Almaty welcoming stalwarts Iberia Star Tbilisi and Slov-Matic Bratislava as well as newcomers Akademia FC Pniewy.

Slov-Matic Bratislava gave Sporting Clube de Portugal a tough game in the main round
Slov-Matic Bratislava gave Sporting Clube de Portugal a tough game in the main round ©Slov-Matic Bratislava

Kairat Almaty (KAZ)
Champions of Kazakhstan seven years running, and looking good for an eighth success, Kairat are a major European force with three semi-finals to their name, though were pipped to the last four at Araz Naxçivan last season. This time they are at home and have added former MFK Dinamo Moskva players Leonardo Santana Da Silva and Micky De Oliveira as well as Aslan Smakov, a relative of Kairat captain Samat Smakov, to a strong squad including evergreen Kelson and the prolific Katata. "There are no weak teams in the UEFA Futsal Cup," said coach João Carlos Barbosa. "We are working hard to perform as well as possible. We hope the fans get behind us. We want to see a full house."

Main round: bye
Key players: Kelson, Katata, Micky De Oliveira

Iberia Star Tbilisi (GEO)
The only team to have played in all ten editions, Georgia's Iberia reached the elite round for the first time last season and did so again in some style in September. They warmed up for this mini-tournament with two friendlies against Neftçi İSM, runners-up to Araz in Azerbaijan last season, losing 4-3 but then winning 5-1. "Even though we started the domestic league with a huge victory [16-1 against Adjara Batumi], it will not be easy for us in the elite round, not only against Kairat Almaty but also the other clubs," Iberia's Ukrainian coach Oleg Solodovnik said. "Still our goal is to reach the final tournament. Vassora's recovery will help us to achieve this feat."

Main round:
Győri ETO FC 5-5, FC Mapid Minsk 6-4, FK EP Chrudim 5-0 (Group 4 winners)

Key players: Betinho, Fumasa, George Altunashvili

Akademia FC Pniewy (POL)
Knocking out former champions Action 21 Charleroi in the main round on their European debut showed Akademia's ability. "Our victory over such a famous and respected team as Charleroi especially means a lot to me," coach Klaudiusz Hirsch told UEFA.com. However, they are facing three more teams with real pedigrees. "Only one team will qualify and definitely we are not favourites," Hirsch added. "If we manage to go through, it would be a huge surprise, but why not? The Almaty and Tbilisi teams are full of Brazilian players, and that makes them very strong, but regardless of the outcome, it is great experience for us."

Main round: KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac 1-3, Action 21 Charleroi 6-2, Kremlin Bicêtre United 4-0 (Group 6 runners-up)
Key players: Nicolae Neagu, Jan Janovsky, Dariusz Pieczyński, Frane Despotović

Slov-Matic Bratislava (SVK)
Bratislava were out of Europe last season but have resumed usual service, reaching the elite round as they did in 2007/08 and 2008/09. They have already stormed clear in Slovakia but coach Jan Janík knows that counts for little in Europe. "The other Slovak league teams don't show up our weaknesses," he said. "For me, the favourites are Iberia Star Tbilisi with their Ukrainian coach, six Brazilians in the squad and great ability. We would like to cause an upset, but I can promise nothing." Gabriel Bartošek and Zdeněk Sláma are doubtful with ankle injuries.

Main round: FC Kobarid 2-1, KMF Železarec Skopje 4-1, Sporting Clube de Portugal 1-2 (Group 1 runners-up)
Key players: Vojtech Várady, Peter Haľko, Zdeněk Sláma, Ladislav Mikita

Reporters: Mikhail Kozachkov, Vakhtang Bzikadze, Piotr Koźmiński & Rastislav Hribik

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