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Kairat welcome Paris, Nikars, Ekonomac

Former UEFA Futsal Cup winners Kairat Almaty welcome Sporting Club de Paris, FK Nikars Riga and Serbian champions KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac from Thursday.

Ekonomac Kragujevac are expected to be Kairat's closest challengers
Ekonomac Kragujevac are expected to be Kairat's closest challengers ©Miloš Milivojević

Kairat Almaty (KAZ, hosts)
Kairat have reached the elite round every year since the current format was introduced in 2006/07 and the 2013 winners are stronger with the arrival of the likes of Brazilian FIFA Futsal World Cup winner Jé and former FC Barcelona star Igor. Having easily seen off Tulpar Karagandy to maintain their domestic supremacy, they also won a recent international tournament in Almaty, beating FC Dynamo in the final. "I want to thank the lads, who keep improving their skills and do not stop, for the victories," coach Cacau said. "I also want to underline that we have got much stronger at dead-ball situtations which decide a lot in today's game."

Main round: Bye
Key players: Dinmukhambet Suleimenov, Higuita, Joan, Alexandre

Sporting Club de Paris (FRA)
A club more than 20 years old but a force only in recent seasons, Sporting are the first French club to reach the elite round, beating FK EP Chrudim in the main round. Late last month, they secured the signing of Brazilian Davi and have a former Kairat player in Café. "We learned our lessons and already achieved our target by reaching the elite round," coach Rodolphe Lopes said. "Now let's see what lies ahead."

Main round: KMF Zelezarec Skopje 6-3, FC Stalitsa Minsk 10-7, FK EP Chrudim 6-4 (Group 1 winners)
Key players:
Roninho, Augusto, Café, Gabriel Miraglia, Davi

FK Nikars Riga (LVA)
In the last six years Nikars have become a European force, and in former Portugal and Sporting Clube de Portugal coach Orlando Duarte have one of the most respected technicians in the game at the helm. They started this season by beating rivals FC Rabab 2-1 in the Latvian Super Cup and have been in the goals in the league. Their main round success was a boost after a switch to relying on local talent, apart from Portugal captain Arnaldo, and they hope to have Igors Dacko available after a back injury. Director Aleksandrs Dibrivnijs said: "Kairat Almaty seem to be the favourites of the group with Ekonomac Kragujevac being their main opponents, while we will fight for third position with Sporting Paris. This is our minimum goal but we also will try to surprise the favourites."

Main round: FC Grand Pro Varna 4-1, Rekord Bielsko-Biała 3-1, Iberia Star Tbilisi 0-1 (Group 2 winners)
Key players: Aigars Bondars, Arnaldo, Igors Avanesovs

KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac (SRB)
In the elite round for the fifth straight year, Ekonomac have been getting closer and closer to the finals, and – as Dibrivnijs said – look like Kairat's main challengers.  They emerged from a tough elite round group with a goal in the final seconds against Luparense C/5, and have a strong, experienced team, with Brazilian Daniel alongside local Serbian talent.

Main round: Athina '90 3-1, Baku United FC 1-4, Luparense C/5 3-2 (Group 5 runners-up)
Key players:
Daniel, Vidan Bojović, Danilo Kostić

Reporters: Aidyn Kozhakhmetov, Christian Châtelet & Eugene Ravdin 

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