Futsal Champions League semi-final preview
Friday, April 30, 2021
Record five-time winners Inter FS take on Sporting CP and then holders Barça meet Kairat Almaty for spots in Monday's final.
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There is a familiar look to Saturday's UEFA Futsal Champions League semi-finals in Zadar.
Record five-time winners Inter FS take on Sporting CP and then holders Barça meet Kairat Almaty for spots in Monday's final. Those were the same ties as at this stage two years ago in 2019, when Sporting and then-hosts Kairat won through and the Portuguese team ended up lifting the trophy, a result that means all four sides still involved at the Krešimir Ćosić Arena have already been champions at least once.
Inter FS vs Sporting CP (15:00 CET)
One of the competition's most enduring rivalries will be revived to open Saturday's action. The pair first met back in the 2004/05 second qualifying round, an epic 4-3 win for Inter, but a decade later Sporting prevailed 1-0 to reach the finals. But it is the three more recent encounters that stick out: Inter's 7-0 and 5-2 victories in the finals of 2017 and 2018 that increased their record tally of titles to five, followed by Sporting's 5-3 success in the 2019 semis, at the same Almaty Arena where they had conceded seven two years earlier.
Dieguinho, who got a hat-trick that day, is no longer at Sporting but plenty of veterans of those showdowns will be involved in Zadar, though not the Lions' former Inter pivot Cardinal who is injured, while team-mate Vinicius Rocha is suspended having shone in Thursday's 3-2 defeat of KPRF. Inter looked comfortable in beating their Russian opponents Ugra Yugorsk 3-0, but they are taking on a Sporting side unbeaten in 45 competitive games since January 2020.
Barça vs Kairat Almaty (20:00 CET)
If Sporting's 2019 Almaty win against Inter was a reversal of past meetings, Kairat's 5-2 triumph over Barça that day, in front of a competition-record 12,090 crowd, kept up their perfect European record against the Blaugrana. In 2015, Kairat had won 3-2 in the Lisbon final, and two years before in Tbilisi they held sway at 5-4 in the last four on their way to regaining the trophy. On both those occasions Barça were the reigning champions, as they are again this time.
Kairat needed extra time before powering clear to defeat Benfica 6-2 on Wednesday, reaching a record tenth semi-final, but a red card for goalkeeper Higuita means he is out against Barça, so his spot will be taken by 19-year-old Narun Serikov who performed excellently when he came on in the quarter-finals, having only arrived in Zadar the day before as a late call-up with Dudu unavailable. Barça brushed past Dobovec 2-0 but are playing these finals without two key injured men, captain Sergio Lozano and goalkeeper Miquel Feixas.