Sergio Lozano is determined to be fit for this week's finals in Baku and speaks to UEFA.com about FC Barcelona's huge desire to wrest back the European title.
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So vital to FC Barcelona's UEFA Futsal Cup victory on their debut in 2012, Sergio Lozano is desperate to make up for losing the title last season.
Barcelona were denied 5-4 in an epic semi-final in Tbilisi 12 months ago by Kairat Almaty; on Thursday they are at that stage again against hosts Araz Naxçivan in Baku. However Lozano, who missed Barcelona's elite round success due to a knee problem, suffered a hamstring injury last week that left him struggling to be fit for the finals. Nevertheless, the 25-year-old Spain forward has vowed to make it and spoke about the coming challenge to UEFA.com.
UEFA.com: For the third year running Barcelona have made the UEFA Futsal Cup finals – how important to the club is it to be here?
Sergio Lozano: For Barça it is a tremendously important title. This is the Champions League and, like anywhere else, it's the main [trophy]. After that small disappointment in Tbilisi last year, we will try to make amends by at least getting to the final or trying to win our second final four event.
UEFA.com: Are you extra determined after losing the title to Kairat in Tbilisi? Did that semi-final loss come as a surprise?
Lozano: There is a lot of determination among us for the reasons I have already explained. We left with a bad taste in our mouths the last time. To lose a semi-final is always tough to take for a team that is used to winning every trophy. We didn't have our best game due to different circumstances and injuries and we felt we deserved a little better. Our mentality this year is one of returning and winning.
UEFA.com: Your league is the most competitive of the four teams' here, does that keep you sharper for the finals or does it mean you cannot focus on the finals as much as the other teams in the build-up?
Lozano: For me, it's a great thing to be competing week after week. You know that if you have a bad day and let your guard down, you will be overcome so you are working on a daily basis in order to avoid that happening. There is also the fact they are preparing for so long for this game and can afford to relax. They prepare for the tournament a lot in advance. That's not an excuse for not getting to the final last year, by the way. For me, it's good to compete on a day-to-day basis with Barça.
UEFA.com: How have Barcelona evolved since last season?
Lozano: There haven't been many changes, We are the same players and the same team. There is also the same hope and expectation among us. For us, it is a special title and a good way to end an era of so much glory for Barça. Winning two final fours is a very difficult thing.
UEFA.com: What do you think about Araz?
Lozano: Araz had a great qualifying phase and they are the hosts. They also have many Brazilians. We gained knowledge of them last year when we played against them. They are a very competitive team who eliminated Sporting [Clube de Portugal] at their home. With them playing at home, they won't be easily beaten.
UEFA.com: You won this competition with Barcelona in 2012. What did it feel like to lift the trophy?
Lozano: It was a tremendous pleasure winning in Lleida amid the atmosphere that existed and also the way in which we won. For me, that victory was priceless. It was one of my first titles and I look back on it with a lot of emotion. Here's hoping we can do it again.
UEFA.com: How do you feel like playing in places like Baku?
Lozano: It's great that futsal exists all around Europe and the world and that it gets to be seen in places where the support base isn't as big as, say, in Spain or Russia. This will help our game grow and that is thrilling for us. I've never been to Baku so it's also a great way to see different places. I'm really keen to go there.