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Inter challenge for Sporting

Finals regulars Sporting Clube de Portugal are challenged by three-time winners Inter FS and teams from Bulgaria and Belgium in elite round Group A from Wednesday.

Sporting's press launch drew large media coverage
Sporting's press launch drew large media coverage ©Sporting Clube de Portugal

Sporting Clube de Portugal (POR, hosts)
Having retained the Portuguese title last term, Sporting were unbeaten this season until a 3-2 home loss to 2010 European champions SL Benfica on 25 October. Still, staging the group on the outskirts of Lisbon in Odivelas, the 2011 runners-up have high hopes of reaching a fourth finals despite the deparutre of Brazilian attackers Deo and Divanei. Cristiano is now gradually replacing stalwart João Benedito, but influential Portugal defenders João Matos, Pedro Cary, Paulinho and Djô all remain, joined this season by international team-mates Fábio Aguiar  and Fábio Lima. Coach Nuno Dias said: "We have to be motivated because it's the stage that all want to reach. Everything will happen in just four days, but we'll be prepared."

Main round: Bye
Key players: Pedro Cary, Paulinho, Caio Japa, Alex

Inter FS (ESP)
The only three-time winners have been overshadowed by FC Barcelona and Murcia FS of late but as Spanish champions again they are back in Europe and unbeaten in the league this season. However, Ricardinho has said he will not play in the games in Lisbon owing to a muscle injury sustained on 18 October. Meanwhile, Ismael Hamdaoui has parted ways with the club. "This is a  huge competition for the club, the trophy we want to win more than any other," captain Ortiz said. "Being back in the competition is very important for us, because we had gone five or six years without winning the league and without without playing in Europe."

Main round: Hovocubo 5-0, Lokomotiv Kharkiv 5-2 , KMN Kobarid 6-2. (Group 4 winners)
Key players
: Ortiz, Pola, Jesús Herrero

FC Grand Pro Varna (BUL)
One of only two preliminary round contenders still in the competition, Varna are the first Bulgarian side to make it this far and did so in dramatic fashion with a final-game win against Polish side Rekord Bielsko-Biała in Riga. Varna have been rocked by the departure of five-goal Brazilian Celsinho, nevertheless coach Dimitar Pantev is sure his side can spring a surprise. "There will be no pressure on us at all," he told UEFA.com. "As underdogs we have nothing to lose. We are proud of our great achievements so far, but we want do well in Portugal too." Serbian pair Jovan Stanković and Marko Kostić bolster the domestic talent and will be crucial to success.

Preliminary round: FC Progress Chisinau 2-2, Uni Futsal Bulle 8-1 (Group H winners)
Main round:
FK Nikars Riga 1-4, Iberia Star Tbilisi 4-0, Rekord Bielsko-Biała 2-0 (Group 2 runners-up)
Key players: Jovan Stanković, Marko Kostić, Georgi Karageorgiev

Futsal Team Charleroi (BEL)
The successor club to last season's Belgian double-winners Futsal Châtelineau, the side from the home of 2005 champions Action 21 Charleroi come into the mini-tournament on the back of a fine domestic run including a 9-3 defeat of high-flying FP Halle-Gooik. Player-coach Liliu said: "Before the main round tournament no -one in Belgium really expected us to push through. I even think some laughed and said we would go on a one-week holiday. But we worked hard for this success. Playing in Europe is very different compared to domestic futsal. But we have been able to adapt, and that is very important."

Main round: MNK Alumnus Zagreb 4-2, FC Deva 3-2, ISK Dina Moskva 1-5 (Group 3 runners-up)
Key players:
Lúcio, Zico, Liliu, Terry Caudron, Leo

Reporters: José Nuno Pimentel, Gonzalo Aguado, Stoyan Georgiev & Berend Scholten

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