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Stalwarts Iberia ambitious for more

Iberia Star Tbilisi are the only side to have played every edition of the UEFA Futsal Cup and believe they can attract a competition-record crowd as they host their first mini-tournament.

Iberia believe the Sportis Sasakhle could be full this week
Iberia believe the Sportis Sasakhle could be full this week ©Badri Ketiladze

Iberia Star Tbilisi are the only side to have played in every edition of the UEFA Futsal Cup but it will be a new experience for the perennial Georgian champions when they stage a mini-tournament for the first time on Tuesday.

FC Mapid Minsk, FC Geneva and Slov-Matic Bratislav are the visitors to the Sportis Sasakhle in Tbilisi for main round Group 3 and Iberia president Vakhtang Tsereteli believes the biggest-ever UEFA Futsal Cup crowd, set by the 9,400 that attended the 2010 final in Madrid between SL Benfica and Interviú Madrid, could be bettered. "First of all I expect the Tbilisi fans who love and respect futsal to fill the stands of our 9,700-seater so we could have a competition-record crowd," said former player Tsereteli.

His team's record in Europe has been one of slow improvement, finally making the elite round in 2009/10 and last season getting there again before being pipped to the finals by Kairat Almaty. Since then Kairat have signed key Iberia man Fumasa but Brazilians Luiz Negão and Edu have arrived in his place.

Tsereteli remains confident they can make it to the finals and Ukrainian coach Oleg Solodovnyk, in charge of the side since early 2010, thinks the same. "We are experienced enough to fight for first place in the group, not only in the main round but also in the elite one," he said.

At a friendly tournament in Lviv, Ukraine, in August, Iberia defeated BTS Rekord Bielsko-Biała 6-2 and hosts Kardinal Lviv 6-3 before drawing 6-6 against MFK Gazprom-Yugra. It was also 6-6 in the final against MFK CSKA Moskva before the Russian club won 8-7 on penalties. "Yugra are a good team but Iberia were the best side around, they were very difficult to play against," said CSKA coach Paulo Tavares. Iberia did further damage playing at home in September, beating Ekol Baku 9-1 and 5-2 in friendlies, meaning they have not lost a game at the Sportis Sasakhle since November 2009.