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Cacau keeps Kairat humble for Dynamo replay

The UEFA Futsal Cup finals begin on Thursday with a repeat of last season's dramatic final, causing mixed emotions in the Kairat Almaty and FC Dynamo camps ahead of the big kick-off.

Faustino Pérez and Cacau pose with the UEFA Futsal Cup after Wednesday's press conference
Faustino Pérez and Cacau pose with the UEFA Futsal Cup after Wednesday's press conference ©Sportsfile

Kairat Almaty coach Cacau played down the European title holders' credentials as he sized up the challenge of FC Dynamo in Thursday's opening semi-final of the 2013/14 UEFA Futsal Cup.

The 15.30CET kick-off at Baku's Sarhadchi Olympic Sport Complex is a direct replay of last season's final in which Kairat became the first ever Kazakhstani team to win a UEFA title, beating the Russian giants – themselves crowned continental kings in 2007 – 4-3 in Georgia.

However, Cacau gave no hint of complacency as he assessed the chances of his squad, who clinched their 11th straight domestic championship earlier this month. "I am thinking about winning, not about the mantle of being holders or not," he said "We aren't favourites – we respect Dynamo's history and their trainer. They have been winning Russian titles for years. It's a difficult game and one that will be decided by small details."

The Brazilian did, however, offer the hope that his new-look team – minus the departed Leo Santana and Betão, but reinforced by Caio Júnior, Rubinho and Café – could attain the high standards of their predecessors. "We lost Leo Santana after four years, which was a big loss. We lost Betão. But we have signed replacements and we are fully prepared for this test. I hope this side can reach the same level that the likes of Leo and Betão achieved. The fact Araz are at home gives them an advantage and they also have some very experienced players. In fact, it's a brilliant final four, with no favourites."

Dynamo boss Faustino Pérez concurred with the view that the Azerbaijani capital would be witnessing perhaps the strongest last-four lineup yet – "the level is getting better and better every year so it's increasingly difficult to win this competition" – before adding of the opposition: "We are facing the champions and we couldn't have more respect for them."

Pérez's men have recently caught the eye in retaining the Russian Futsal Cup, yet their prospects of avenging last year's final reverse could depend on "other factors that come into play in a semi-final, like stress and tension", said Pérez, who admitted to having studied that Tbilisi defeat in depth. "We are preparing for a really tough game against a team with very few weaknesses. I hope and think we have the right tools to approach this task with confidence. We need to be right not only physically and mentally but also tactically."

With hosts Araz Naxçivan making it three eastern European contenders at these finals, the coach also spoke of futsal's development in this corner of the world. "There is growth in this area, but it's also a factor that perhaps they are financially stronger in these regions than elsewhere, which may explain the number of Brazilian imports, for example," he explained.