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Benfica open Futsal Cup defence

SL Benfica begin their title defence against Serbian hosts KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac on 25 November, with FC Time Lviv and MNK Nacional Zagreb also barring their elite round route.

Ekonomac aim to repeat their home main round success
Ekonomac aim to repeat their home main round success ©Miki Jevtović

SL Benfica (POR, holders)
Benfica took the UEFA Futsal Cup to Portugal for the first time last season after an epic 3-2 defeat of Interviú FS in front of a competition-record crowd of 9,400 fans at Lisbon's Pavilhão Atlântico. Since then Paulo Fernandes has replaced André Lima as coach, having joined from the side which took their national title, Sporting Clube de Portugal. While Benfica's best-known player Ricardinho completed a long-expected move to Japan's Nagoya Oceans in the summer, Vítor Hugo, Diece, Diego Sol and Teka have all signed and they have made an unbeaten start to the new season.

Main round: Bye
Key players: César Paulo, Joel Queirós, Pedro Costa, Arnaldo Pereira

KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac (SRB)
Formed by enthusiasts and students at the University of Kragujevac on 7 November 2000, the club from the central Serbian city won their second domestic title last season to end KMF Marbo Beograd's dominance. Having hosted their main round group, defeating former European champions Action 21 Charleroi on a perfect run, they can now look forward to the same honour in the elite round. Coach Ivan Božović, whose team are yet to drop a league point, said: "This is the biggest challenge in our history and that detail means enough for us at the moment. But we will prepare ourselves for another brilliant event; we are optimistic."

Main round: Akademia FC Pniewy 3-1, Kremlin Bicêtre United 7-1, Action 21 Charleroi 3-2 (Group 6 winners)
Key players: Predrag Rajić, Vladan Cvetanović, Vidan Bojović, Vladimir Ranisavljević

FC Time Lviv (UKR)
Last season, Time won their second straight Ukrainian title as part of a treble including the Ukrainian Cup and Super Cup. On their European debut a year ago they fell in the elite round at the expense of then holders Interviú; now 50-year-old coach Stanislav Goncharenko, who previously guided FC InterKrAZ Kyiv to three league triumphs, will attempt to go one better despite a mixed opening to the new Ukrainian season. "We are playing the titleholders in the elite round for the second time in a row," said Goncharenko. "There are no unbeaten teams. At home Benfica play one way, but away they are a completely different side. Everyone has an equal chance."

Main round: AGBU Ararat Nicosia 5-1, MNK Orlić Sarajevo 2-1, Athina '90 Athens 9-3 (Group 2 winners)
Key players: Vladyslav Lysenko, Valeriy Legchanov, Oleksandr Kondratyuk

MNK Nacional Zagreb (CRO)
The futsal story of the year in Croatia is Nacional's signing of world-class Brazilian striker Vassoura from Time's domestic rivals FC Shakhtar Donetsk last month, the newcomer linking up with compatriots Fernando, Diego and Ramos. "The move to Zagreb was the best option right now," Vassoura said. "I came to Nacional to win three trophies this season, the UEFA Futsal Cup most of all." Coach Marinko Mavrović added: "Now I am very satisfied with the team I have. But we have to be patient, work hard and I expect top form from my team during the elite round."

Main round: FS Ilves Tampere 7-1, ASA Tel Aviv 2-2, ASD Città di Montesilvano C/5 1-2 (Group 5 runners-up)
Key players: Vassoura, Fernando, Diego, Ramos, Matija Čapar, Korab Morina

Reporters: Hugo Pietra, Aleksandar Bošković, Bogdan Buga & Elvir Islamović

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