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UEFA Futsal Champions League elite round: Barça, Benfica, Palma, Sporting CP reach finals

Barça, Benfica, holders Palma and Sporting CP are through to May's four-team finals, which will contain entirely past winners for the first time.

Barça pipped Riga to the finals, giving them a chance for a record-equalling fifth title
Barça pipped Riga to the finals, giving them a chance for a record-equalling fifth title Riga Futsal Club

A quartet of Iberian past winners will contest the UEFA Futsal Champions League finals in May after Barça, Benfica, holders Mallorca Palma Futsal and Sporting CP topped their elite round groups.

Never before have the four-team finals been made up entirely of past winners, although in the one-off eight-club event of 2021, all the teams in the semis had previously lifted the trophy.


Group A

Barça edged out hosts Riga Futsal Club 3-2 on Saturday to return to the finals, having missed out for the first time in ten attempts last season. Riga, two points ahead at kick-off, had reason to hope when an own goal cancelled out Adolfo's opener, but after half-time Catela and Mamadou Touré put Barça back in control.

The Spanish side then held out despite Thalles pulling one back with his 15th goal of the campaign, becoming the outright top scorer with a tally only bettered three times in the competition's history. Riga finished their bid with 70 goals, the second highest total for a season after Action 21 Charleroi's 76 in 2003/04.

Riga had previously recorded two dramatic 5-4 wins, beating Etoile Lavalloise despite falling behind in the last minute, Thalles clinching it with six seconds left. They followed up with another comeback against Città di Eboli, Ricardinho striking 31 seconds from time to become the first player to reach 60 UEFA futsal club competition goals.

Barça were held 2-2 by Eboli on Wednesday, when Fabricio Calderolli levelled with 11 seconds remaining, but on Thursday they overcame Etoile Lavalloise 7-0, both Pito and Adolfo getting hat-tricks. Etoile Lavalloise defeated Eboli 4-0 for third place.

2022 final highlights: Barça 4-0 Sporting CP

Group B

Benfica are through to the finals for the fourth year in a row, qualifying with a game to spare. On Wednesday, the 2010 winners beat Dobovec 4-3, Jacaré striking with eight seconds left against a team the Eagles had defeated 8-1 in the main round. Earlier, two-time champions Kairat Almaty defeated hosts Prishtina 11-2, with eight different players on target.

That made Thursday's encounter between the two past champions crucial and Benfica – who beat Kairat 2-1 in Almaty last season to qualify for the finals on their way to bronze – prevailed 3-2 as they made the most of a fast start. They then needed Dobovec to avoid defeat against Prishtina, who equalised late in a 3-3 draw that ensured another finals spot for Benfica.

The Portuguese hopefuls concluded with a 10-1 win against Prishtina, while Kairat concluded their record 20th campaign – in the course of which they became the first club past 100 UEFA futsal club matches – by winning 7-0 against Dobovec.

2023 third-place play-off highlights: Benfica 4-3 Anderlecht

Group C

Last season's runners-up Sporting CP, like Barça, are in the post-2006/07 finals for a record tenth time after their deciding 4-1 win against Sporting Anderlecht in Lisbon on Sunday. The hosts led on goal difference ahead of the game after beating Loznica-Grad 2018 9-1 and Haladás 7-2, and now aim to become the first club to reach the final years in a row.

Anderlecht, who reached the finals for the first time in 2022/23 before losing to Sporting in the semis, went into their rematch with the Portuguese outfit following a 5-2 victory against Haladás and an 8-1 win against Loznica-Grad. The Serbian side finished third after beating the Hungarian representatives 3-2.

2023 semi-final highlights: Sporting CP 7-1 Anderlecht

Group D

Having won the title on debut last season, Palma are through to the finals again, after drawing 2-2 on Saturday against FC Hit Kyiv to earn their place. Their Ukrainian opponents had gone into the game needing a two-goal win to pip the hosts and reach the last four at their first attempt.

On Wednesday, Palma came from 2-0 down to beat Olmissum 5-3, and the following night they won 3-1 against Lubawa. That ended the hopes of the Polish newcomers, who overcame Hit 6-5 in their opener despite having trailed 4-1 with less than four minutes left, Paweł Kaniewski winning the game with 48 seconds to go.

Hit remained in contention after Matchday 2 thanks to a 4-3 victory against Olmissum, whom they had also beaten in the main round. This time around, Volodymyr Ponochovnyi buried the winner with just two seconds to go. However, Hit missed out on Saturday despite taking the lead and then Ponochovnyi equalising with just over two minutes left. Lubawa had earlier defeated Olmissum 7-2 to finish second.

2023 final highlights: Palma 1-1 Sporting CP (aet, 5-3 pens)

Team facts

  • Palma won the title on debut last season. Barça, Benfica, Kairat and 2023 runners-up Sporting CP are past winners.
  • Kairat are the first club to enter 20 seasons of UEFA futsal competition. Their last main round game made them the first to play 100 matches in UEFA futsal club competition.
  • Sporting CP's 6-2 victory against Olmissum in their last main round game meant that they equalled Inter FS's record of 68 UEFA futsal club competition wins and moved two clear of Inter's old record of 410 goals; Benfica moved to 409 goals after the main round. Nuno Dias of Sporting also became the first coach to record 50 competition wins with a single club (Jesús Velasco has 60 wins but with multiple teams).
  • Teams that came through the preliminary round: Lubawa, Prishtina and Riga. This is the first time under the current format (since 2017/18) that three teams have reached the elite round from the preliminary round. Lubawa only qualified from that round as best runners-up, finishing behind Prishtina in their group on goals scored.
  • Etoile Lavalloise, Hit Kyiv, Lubawa and Prishtina were in their debut European seasons.
  • Riga Futsal Club previously entered as Petro-w, and made the elite round for the first time. In the preliminary round, their summer signing Ricardinho scored six times to reach 55 in the competition, overtaking previous record-holder André Vanderlei. He ended the reound of 59 after making it ten for the season, one off his personal best from 13 campaigns, set for Benfica in 2007/08.
  • Riga scored 58 goals in their first six games this season, the highest tally since FC Dynamo scored 66 in finishing as runners-up in 2004/05 (the season before, Action 21 Charleroi scored a record 76).
  • Croatia, Kosovo, Latvia, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia and Ukraine have never had a team in the post-2007 final four under the current format, although Dobovec did play in the one-off eight-team finals of 2020/21, Shakhtar Donetsk made the two-legged semi-finals of 2005/06, and both Croatia's MNK Split (reaching the semi-finals) and Poland's Clearex Chorzów (going out in the group stage) were in the inaugural eight-team finals of 2001/02.

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