Kairat Almaty claimed the UEFA Futsal Cup last season and start their defence by staging elite round Group C against compatriots Tulpar Karagandy and two preliminary round survivors.
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Kairat Almaty (KAZ, hosts/holders)
Kairat had fallen in four semi-finals before their wins against holders FC Barcelona and former champions MFK Dinamo in Tbilisi last April gave them Kazkhstan's first UEFA title at any level. Cacau's squad is almost the same but for the departure of Henrique and arrival of Brazilian Danilo Baron. "We are Europe's best club and that imposes certain obligations," Kairat skipper Dinmukhambet Suleimenov said. "Everyone is very committed while playing us, be it in a friendly or a competitive fixture. I am very happy that we host the elite round mini-tournament and I hope very much for the support of our fans."
Main round: bye
Key players: Joan, Dinmukhambet Suleimenov, Higuita, Fumasa
Tulpar Karagandy (KAZ)
Thanks to Kairat's status as holders, national runners-up Tulpar were able to join them for their European debut. Karagandy sides have proved Kairat's main domestic rivals and although Tulpar have never won the league, neither had Russia's MFK Sinara Ekaterinburg when they made their debut in 2007/08, when they succeeded MFK Dinamo as UEFA Futsal Cup holders. Tulpar combine a strong crop of academy graduates with Brazilians and coach Amirzhan Mukanov said: "There are no weak clubs in the elite round, all the teams are strengthened with foreign players of good class. A group containing the UEFA Futsal Cup holders cannot be an easy one, but we are going to fight for everything."
Main round: Lokomotiv Kharkov 2-2, Marca Futsal 2-2, Sporting Club de Paris 6-1 (Group 3 winners)
Key players: Chingiz Yesenamanov, Pavel Taku, Douglas, Thales, Sidney
MFK VitEn Vitebsk (BLR)
Vitebsk return to Europe after their third title in eight years, during which time they never finished outside of the top three. However, they have not made it this far before, emulating FC Dorozhnik Minsk's achievement in 2006/07. "There are chances for every competitor in any sport," 2012/13 Belarusian player of the year Aleksandr Chernik said. "We will give our all to represent our club and country capably in such a prestigious competition."
Preliminary round: Perth Youth Saltires 11-2, Eden College Futsal 4-2, Göteborg Futsal Club 5-2 (Group F winners)
Main round: FK Nikars Riga 3-3, Slov-Matic Bratislava 3-2, Hamburg Panthers 6-1 (Group 1 winners)
Key players: Aleksandr Chernik, Aleksandr Savintsev, Yuri Aleinikov
KMF Tango Sarajevo (BIH)
One of only two teams, with Vitebsk, to progress from the preliminary round to this stage, the debutants fulfilled coach Mirko Marvan's target by getting past the initial mini-tournament. However, they then surpassed themselves in Hungary, knocking out last season's semi-finalists Iberia Star Tbilisi. "We will have a difficult group, but it was the case too in Hungary," Marvan said. "It will surely be more difficult, but we're going to try to get a good result. Kairat are defending the title of European champions from last year and we will be honoured to play against such a team. The only worry for us is the long journey."
Preliminary round: Wrexham Futsal Club 10-0, Asa Ben Gurion 8-3 (Group D winners)
Main round: Győri ETO FC 2-4, Iberia Star Tbilisi 0-0, Grand Pro Varna 8-4 (Group 2 runners-up)
Key players: Slaven Novoselac, Anel Radmilović, Ognjen Erić
Reporters: Aidyn Kozhakhmetov, Denis Orlov & Fuad Krvavac