The Football Association insists it intends to work with the UK government to ensure both FA Cup semi-finals have sell-out crowds.

Questions have been raised whether Chelsea fans will be able to attend the game against Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium with the club still working under government-imposed sanctions, preventing them from making a profit by selling match tickets.

Blues owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and had his assets frozen, after he announced his intentions to sell the Premier League club earlier in March.

A statement released on Monday by the FA confirmed its desire to discuss the matter with the government to potentially allow Blues fans to attend the game, scheduled to take place on April 16 or 17.

"We hope to have sell-out crowds at both of our Emirates FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley Stadium," the statement read.

"This includes tickets for Chelsea supporters for their match against Crystal Palace, and we are working with the government on a method to achieve this whilst respecting the sanctions that are currently in place on Chelsea."

Chelsea later stated their gratitude for the FA's efforts in the matter, writing on Twitter: "We are grateful for the FA's continuing efforts to help us find a solution." 

The other semi-final will see Manchester City face Liverpool, with uncertainty around the arrangements for that game also after it emerged that there are currently no scheduled trains between Manchester or Liverpool and London for that weekend.

Romelu Lukaku credited Cristiano Ronaldo for motivating him to find "another level" at Inter when the pair competed together in Serie A.

Lukaku led Inter to their first Scudetto in over a decade last season, scoring 24 league goals, before returning to former club Chelsea in a £97.5million (€115m) move ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

The Belgium international is yet to hit the same lofty heights at Stamford Bridge, finding the net just five times in 19 league appearances this season, but his efforts at Inter continue to be recognised.

Lukaku has been named as the 2020-21 Footballer of the Year by the Italian Footballers Association, while former coach Antonio Conte and Inter were respectively honoured as Coach of the Year and Club of the Year.

Meanwhile, Chelsea man Lukaku was joined in the Top 11 for the season by Ronaldo, who scored 29 goals for Juventus before himself heading back to the Premier League with Manchester United.

Former Juventus forward Ronaldo was also announced as part of the team of the season, and Lukaku hailed the Portugal star for pushing him to achieve what he did at Inter.

"It's truly an honour to have been voted the best player and to have entered last year's Top 11 in Serie A," Lukaku said.

"I want to thank everyone who voted for me and especially my team-mates, because I think without the team I couldn't have made it. We won together, the coach was always next to us, as well as the club and the fans.

"Playing in Serie A was a dream I had since I was a child and I did everything necessary to win in Italy.

"Finding yourself in front of Cristiano Ronaldo is something that does not happen often, because for me he is in the top three of the best players in the history of football, a player who really took me to another level.

"This award gives me great confidence for the future."

Andriy Shevchenko is hopeful for a positive resolution to the upheaval at Chelsea, but insists his focus is with Ukraine amid its war with Russia.

Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine late in February after weeks of heightening political tensions between the two countries.

The actions of Russia have led to widespread condemnation, with financial, sporting and political sanctions imposed on the nation in an attempt to deter the attacks.

Russian oligarch and Blues owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government, which froze his assets, after he previously announced his intention to sell the club.

Investment firm Raine Group is overseeing the process to sell the club, with any funds to be directed to a charitable organisation or into a frozen account.

While Shevchenko, who is Ukraine's all-time leading scorer and former coach, does not wish to see his former club Chelsea suffer as a result of Abramovich's involvement, he is concentrating on the tragedy unfolding in his homeland.

Asked about football and the ongoing Chelsea takeover speculation, he told the Daily Mail: "It doesn't exist. For me, it doesn't exist. I'm concentrating on delivering this message.

"I'm not looking at sport now. I know what's happening. But in this moment, sport is secondary for me. I'm not looking there. I'm concentrating on my country.

"People take their position but for me, the message which has been sprayed from the sport society is clear: stop the war.

"I understand what's going on with Chelsea. I get it. For the good of the club and the fans, this situation should get resolved. I hope it is. But I'm concentrating on Ukraine."

A section of Chelsea supporters came in for criticism for showing their vocal support for Abramovich during applause for Ukraine before an away game at Burnley, but Shevchenko still believes his old club deserve to come through a tough period,

"The history which Chelsea built cannot be cancelled," he continued. "The Chelsea fans will always stay behind the club because they love the club. I know it's a difficult moment.

"But I am also in a position where, with what is happening to my country, I want to appeal to everyone to play your part. Remember what is most important.

"I want only one thing: to bring the peace in my country, to stop the killing of innocent people, to stop the killing of kids. We all know war is cruel. But we cannot stand for that."

Shevchenko has previously asked people to join him in speaking out against the attacks as he called for peace to be restored.

He has also stayed in London during the conflict to help lead the humanitarian aid effort and raise awareness in England, but his family remain in Ukraine in solidarity with their compatriots.

The 45-year-old explained how he has been in contact with fellow Ukrainian footballers during the conflict, asking them to keep playing and representing their country.

"I always tell the boys: keep playing," he added. "You play for your country. This is a great message. The sport world is very united. It is against the war.

"[Oleksandr] Zinchenko, [Vitaliy] Mykolenko, [Andriy] Yarmolenko, [Roman] Yaremchuk, it's very important that the boys keep playing. I'm calling them. I'm supporting them. 

'We're united. It's the message of my campaign – play your part. Do whatever you can. Please, keep talking about Ukraine. We feel like we are not alone. If you support our athletes, you support us."

Ukraine's resistance has been fierce, with the progress of Russia's invasion much slower than anticipated.

"You feel every bomb that touches the ground because the house is shaking," said Shevchenko. "This is what the war is now. It's in that stage where the Russians surround the city and are just bombing. They don't stop. It's relentless. 

"It doesn't give the Ukrainian people the chance for humanitarian corridors. My mum is there. My sister is there. My uncle. My auntie. My cousin. My friends – some in the frontline.

"They stand for our country, for our freedom, for our choice, for our pride. We defend. We fight. We have to. We don't have a choice.

"The position of president Volodymyr Zelensky was very important. He could have left. But he sent a clear message to say he would stay and that we had to defend our country. That united the Ukrainian people. He stayed with them, and we won't give up.

"Ukraine's independence is only 30 years old. When I first started playing football, that was just when we became independent. From the first day to now, I've always been proud to be Ukrainian, and someone else is not going to dictate to us."

The pressure mounted on Paris Saint-Germain again after another defeat in Ligue 1 this weekend.

The Parisians are 12 points clear at the top but have lost four of their past six games.

Lionel Messi has only netted twice in Ligue 1 since his move from Barcelona, while fellow free signing Sergio Ramos has also only played five times.

 

TOP STORY – PSG TO BLOCK MESSI OR RAMOS RETURNS

Marca reports that PSG would block any potential return to Barcelona or Real Madrid for either Messi or Ramos respectively.

The Ligue 1 giants signed both players last year from those respective clubs, yet there has been reports claiming they may want to return to Spain.

Ramos has struggled with injury while Messi has not been able to discover his best goalscoring form, but PSG are eager to hold on to them.

Messi joined on a two-year deal last August, while Ramos also penned a two-year deal last July.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich have made an opening bid for Ajax's Ryan Gravenberch according to Fabrizio Romano. The fee is approximately €25million but Ajax want more.

- Chelsea, Liverpool, PSG and Madrid are all circling for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni but the Ligue 1 club will not accept less than €50m for him claims Foot Mercato.

- Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti wants to sign Inter midfielder Nicolo Barella according to El Nacional. Barella's arrival could force Toni Kroos out too.

- Aston Villa are prepared to pay £60m for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips claims The Times.

Spotify's new $235million deal with Barcelona has given the Spanish side some extra spending money, and all eyes are on Manchester United's Paul Pogba.

The Red Devils were eliminated from the Champions League by Atletico Madrid, and currently occupy fifth spot in the Premier League table in what has been a disappointing season.

Pogba recently made headlines after his home was burgled while he played in the second leg of United's tie against Atletico, coming off the bench in the 1-0 loss at Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA CLOSE IN ON POGBA 

According to The Daily Star, Barcelona's recent windfall has the club looking around at options to add to Xavi's side, with Pogba now considered within their price range and near the top of the list.

Pogba, 29, has nine assists and one goal in his 16 Premier League appearances this season, with his contract set to expire this summer.

Meanwhile, TuttoJuve say Manchester United have identified Dutch 19-year-old Ryan Gravenberch as a potential replacement if they can pry him away from Ajax. 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona coach Xavi has said club legend Lionel Messi will "always be welcome" back at Camp Nou. However, Marca also report that Messi does not plan to leave Paris Saint-Germain during his two-year contract.

- According to Fichajes, Newcastle United are interested in signing superstar forward Neymar, who is under contract at PSG through 2025.

- Juventus are to target a move for Manchester City's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus, The Daily Star reports, if the English giants manage to sign Norwegian striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport suggest that Antonio Rudiger is set to join Juventus when his Chelsea contract expires this summer, signing a four-year deal with the iconic Italian club.

- Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta has agreed to a free transfer to Barcelona, with the deal expected to be completed at the end of the season according to Football Insider.

- The agent of Chelsea midfielder Jorginho said he would one day like to return to Serie A, according to The Daily Mirror. The 30-year-old Italian spent three seasons with Hellas Verona, and five seasons with Napoli before heading to the Premier League.

Thomas Tuchel hailed the Chelsea players' response to the current takeover speculation after his side secured their FA Cup semi-final spot with a 2-0 win at Middlesbrough.

Boro knocked out Premier League sides Manchester United and Tottenham to reach the last eight, but Chelsea dominated throughout at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday.

Romelu Lukaku poked home after 15 minutes and Hakim Ziyech doubled the visitors' lead shortly after as the Blues progressed from quarter-finals for the 16th time in their previous 20 last-eight ties.

It was Chelsea's fifth straight win across all competitions since owner Roman Abramovich, who has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom government and the European Union (EU) in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, announced his intentions to sell the club on March 2.

Chelsea also coasted to victory with no away fans in attendance due to the sanctions imposed on Abramovich, and Tuchel was delighted.

"We were very focused and very serious from the beginning," Tuchel told BBC Sport.

"We showed quality in decisive moments and scored two early goals which gave us a comfortable lead, but the effort was huge to not allow big chances. I'm very happy, it was a very deserved win.

"I'm impressed with the players' focus. We accepted the [ownership] situation because we didn't cause it. It isn't in our hands, but it was important we showed the right spirit and took responsibility.

"This is very, very good. If you have the talent, it is a responsibility to show it."

Mason Mount, whose two assists took him to 50 direct goal involvements for Chelsea across all competitions, also echoed Tuchel's comments.

"Middlesbrough have been on an unbelievable run, you've seen the teams they've beat recently in the cup, so it was never going to be a comfortable night," he said.

"We didn't have many fans here tonight but I felt that we let our football do the talking. We played some good stuff, and that was the main goal for us tonight.

"We really have that winning mentality within the group. Any competition, any game, we want to win, and we want to keep that going. It's been a tough couple of weeks but for us, as a team, we're just focused and ready to play.

"We're so hungry for a domestic title, we just need to keep going. It's not been the best of runs for us at Wembley but we want to right that wrong.

"We've already had one final at Wembley this season and lost it so we're hungry to win [the semi-final]."

Chelsea secured their place in the FA Cup semi-finals with a comfortable 2-0 victory at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Boro overcame Manchester United and Tottenham to reach the last eight, but Thomas Tuchel's Premier League side did not have such difficulties at the Riverside Stadium.

Romelu Lukaku needed just 15 minutes to open the scoring before Hakim Ziyech added a second in the first half, while Boro managed only one shot on target, which came in the 85th minute, in response.

Chelsea will now wait to find out the identity of their semi-final opponent in Sunday's last-four draw, with the ties set to take place across April 16 and 17 at Wembley Stadium.

 

Mason Mount's early cross just escaped the despairing dive of Christian Pulisic at the back post, but Chelsea were ahead shortly after.

A sweeping move out from defence offered space down the right for Mount, who whipped across for Lukaku to tap-in.

Ziyech doubled the lead 16 minutes later when he finished into the bottom-left corner from outside the area following an offload from Mount.

Mount's second assist of the game took him to 50 goal involvements for Chelsea across all competitions, while Anfernee Dijksteel cleared off the line from Lukaku before the break.

Folarin Balogun wastefully curled over and Duncan Watmore missed the target in similar fashion as Chris Wilder's side ramped up the intensity early in the second half.

Joe Lumley then denied a flicked Timo Werner header from Mount's inswinging free-kick and Edouard Mendy turned away from Watmore as Chelsea eased to victory.

What does it mean? Blues keep double hopes alive

The Premier League title appears a distant dream for Chelsea, who are third in the league, after Manchester City and Liverpool turned the race into a two-team affair.

But Tuchel's reigning European champions remain in contention to defend their Champions League title – facing Real Madrid in the quarter-finals – and are still in the hunt for the FA Cup, after progressing from the last eight for the 16th time in their last 20 quarter-final attempts.

Lovely Lukaku

Lukaku has now had a direct hand in four goals against Boro across all competitions (three goals, one assist).

His first-half strike was also his 16th FA Cup finish since his debut in January 2012 – with only Sergio Aguero (20) finding the net more times in the competition during that period.

Barren Boro run against Blues

Since recording consecutive Premier League wins over Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in 2006, Boro have lost all nine of their meetings against the Blues in all competitions.

Chelsea have recorded 21 goals during that nine-game winning run, with Boro not managing to breach the Blues' defence once in response.

What's next?

Chelsea return to Premier League action after the international break at home to Brentford on April 2, while Middlesbrough visit Peterborough in the Championship on the same day.

Thomas Tuchel is convinced Chelsea will remain focused on winning trophies at the highest level under the club's next ownership.

The deadline for bids passed on Friday, and there were reportedly at least 30 offers submitted to US merchant bank the Raine Group, which is overseeing the sale.

Chelsea's long-time owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK government on the basis of connections to Russia's president, Vladimir Putin.

Abramovich has denied having close ties to Putin, the leader who ordered the ongoing Russian military invasion of Ukraine.

However, the sanctions imposed mean Abramovich, whose assets have been frozen, will not be allowed to profit from the sale of Chelsea. For now, the club continues to operate on a special licence, unable to sell match tickets or merchandise.

Tuchel believes the scale of investment that it will take to buy Chelsea will mean the next owner must make success on the pitch a priority.

The German head coach said: "If somebody buys a club for this amount of money then it's about challenging on the highest kind of level, then it's about trophies, then it's about winning, and then it's about being the best you can.

"It's not about developing a project, it's not about making money with the club.

"I don't know the ideas behind buying a club or any organisation for this amount of money because I cannot afford it and I will never be able to.

"But that's what I hope and what I think. I think Chelsea as a club and a structure and an organisation has an awful to offer, and that's why the price is like it is."

Chelsea have won the Champions League and Club World Cup over the past 12 months, asserting their place at the top of the global game.

The Blues were due in FA Cup action against Middlesbrough on Saturday evening, having received permission to fly north for the game.

Restrictions imposed on the club after Abramovich's sanctioning meant Chelsea looked like having to take a long bus trip to the Riverside Stadium in order to fall within spending limits, but UK newspaper reports indicate an exemption was secured for the quarter-final game.

Abramovich is said to have valued the club, which he bought in 2003, at £3billion. Any funds are due to be directed to a charitable organisation or into a frozen account.

One interested party is a consortium headed by British property developer and Chelsea supporter Nick Candy. The Ricketts family, owners of MLB's Chicago Cubs and backed by hedge fund entrepreneur Ken Griffin, are another party to have officially made a bid.

Martin Broughton, the ex-Liverpool chairman, and Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, are heading up a consortium, with another led by Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and American businessman Todd Boehly, a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Middlesbrough boss Chris Wilder believes FA Cup rivals Chelsea will believe "the world's against them" after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government.

An FA Cup quarter-final at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday evening sees Chelsea go up against a Championship team who have knocked Manchester United and Tottenham out of the competition already.

Wilder, who previously managed in the Premier League with Sheffield United, will have Middlesbrough's players geed up for the occasion.

But he suspects Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea will also be determined to deliver a big performance, suggesting they have developed a "siege mentality" since the club sank into crisis.

He also believes the London club as a whole have woken up to the reality of their situation, having been roundly mocked for suggesting the Middlesbrough game be played behind closed doors.

On the pitch, Chelsea's players have shown focus since the club's crisis surfaced, beating Norwich City, Newcastle United and Lille in consecutive games.

"I've not taken too much notice about all the stuff that's happened over the last week and a half. This is an outstanding team in every aspect of the game. A squad I would imagine is worth about a billion pounds," Wilder told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"They've got world-class players and a world-class manager, regardless of all the stuff that's been going on. They are still in the hunt for a top-three finish and in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the FA Cup.

"Their mentality I imagine should have been strengthened, with a little bit more of a siege mentality, that the world's against them, and they will certainly want to progress in the cup."

Chelsea were set to travel north by bus, rather than taking a private jet, with belt-tightening measures having been drawn up since the club was placed in special measures.

Abramovich has been sanctioned over links to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and the club have been barred from selling tickets or merchandise.

When Chelsea requested that the Middlesbrough game be played without spectators for the sake of "sporting integrity", the London club faced ridicule and soon backed down.

Wilder was baffled too, saying: "I think like 99.99 per cent of people who love the game, [I thought] 'What is going on?'," he said.

"A bit of head scratching at the time. It was a decision that was met universally with displeasure. I don't know another word to use, it was baffling.

"There was a quick turnaround in terms of what they wanted to happen, maybe checking themselves a little bit, getting a grip of themselves and saying, 'Well really this shouldn't happen', and coming to a sensible conclusion."

Since recording back-to-back Premier League wins over Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in February and August 2006, early in the Abramovich era, Middlesbrough have lost each of their last eight matches with the Blues in all competitions without scoring a single goal.

Middlesbrough will be appearing in their first FA Cup quarter-final since 2016-17, when they lost 2-0 at home to Manchester City. They have been eliminated at this stage on each of the last four occasions they have reached the final eight, since making the semi-finals in 2005-06 under Steve McClaren.

Wilder suggests Middlesbrough have only "a puncher's chance" ahead of the visit of the third-placed team in the Premier League.

"But we want to give it a good go," he said. "It wouldn't be the biggest upset in cup history, but we are certainly up against it."

Cristiano Ronaldo has been heavily linked with an early exit from Manchester United this season.

The Red Devils are out of the Premier League title race and struggling to make the top four.

There is said to be tension surrounding Ronaldo due to Ralf Rangnick's appointment as interim manager.

TOP STORY - RONALDO RE-COMMITS TO MAN UTD

Ronaldo will stay with United next season with interim manager Rangnick set to depart, reports AS.

The 37-year-old forward has committed to United, whom he joined in August on a two-year deal with the option for a third season, as he is confident they will show their ambition by making a major appointment with their new permanent manager.

United were eliminated from the Champions League this week by Atletico Madrid and are struggling to reach next season's edition, sitting fifth in the Premier League.

ROUND-UP

- Jesse Lingard has been offered to Italian clubs Milan and Roma as he prepares to leave United as a free agent, reports Nicolo Schira. West Ham  and Newcastle United are also interested in the 29-year-old England international.

- Benfica have slapped a £67million price tag on striker  Darwin Nunez , who is being pursued by Manchester United , Arsenal , Liverpool and Newcastle ,   according to The Mirror.

- Foot Mercato reports  Arsenal will enter the race to sign Real Madrid winger  Eden Hazard , with Chelsea previously linked to their former player.

- Fichajes claims  Atletico Madrid are considering a move for Athletic Bilbao head coach Marcelino should Diego Simeone opt to leave the Spanish champions.

Thomas Tuchel says he wants Chelsea to be the side that everyone aims to avoid heading into the Champions League quarter-finals.

The reigning champions kept their title defence on track on Wednesday by advancing to the last eight with a 4-1 aggregate victory over Lille.

Leading 2-0 from the first leg at Stamford Bridge three weeks ago, Tuchel's side fell behind at Stade Pierre-Mauroy to a Burak Yilmaz penalty.

However, Christian Pulisic responded in first-half stoppage time, before Cesar Azpilicueta completed the turnaround with 19 minutes remaining.

Tuchel is hopeful his side will have the fear factor in the quarter-final draw, which takes place on Friday.

The head coach also heaped praise on skipper Azpilicueta, whose last Champions League goal also came against Lille back in December 2019.

"I want us to be the team nobody wants to play," Tuchel said. "That's the role we want to see ourselves in this last eight.

"[Azpilicueta] is maybe the perfect example to describe a person as a leader. He is doing it in good times and bad times, if he is a regular starter or not. 

"If he is playing a wing-back, which is maybe not his best position, he is there. We do not need extra, extra at the moment; we just need reliable teamwork and reliable spirit.

"I don't know if Azpi is talking to the players; I just know he is doing what he normally does."

Chelsea are back in action on Sunday, when they travel to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

The build-up to the tie was dominated by the club requesting that home supporters also be blocked from attending the Riverside, after restrictions imposed following the sanctioning of owner Roman Abramovich rendered them unable to sell any tickets beyond the 600 already sold from their away allocation.

The Blues subsequently withdrew the request, which had been met with widespread ridicule and opposition, with Tuchel also welcoming that decision.

"We love to play in front of spectators and I don't think the spectators of our opponents should suffer from the consequences," he added. "We love to play in front of spectators. 

"Me and the team were not involved in this decision. We were happy it was withdrawn."

Chelsea have withdrawn their request for Saturday's FA Cup tie with Middlesbrough to be played behind closed doors to "protect sporting integrity" after they were banned from selling tickets.

Blues owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the United Kingdom government following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but Chelsea have been granted a special licence to continue operating.

As part of the restrictions placed on Chelsea, they were unable to sell any tickets beyond the 600 they had already sold from their away allocation for the Riverside Stadium, meaning there will be a limited number of away fans in attendance for the quarter-final.

Chelsea lodged a request to the Football Association (FA) on Tuesday pushing for home supporters to also be blocked from attending, which was met with widespread ridicule and opposition.

Boro responded by making a stance that the Blues' "bizarre" demands were "ironic in the extreme", and the reigning European champions have since removed their request

The FA confirmed the decision in a statement that said: "After constructive talks between The FA and Chelsea, the club has agreed to remove their request for the Emirates FA Cup quarter-final tie against Middlesbrough to be played behind closed doors.

"The FA remains in ongoing discussions with Chelsea, the Premier League and the government to find a solution that would enable both Chelsea fans to attend games and away fans to attend Stamford Bridge, whilst ensuring sanctions are respected."

Chelsea must head to Lille on Wednesday before travelling to Boro, who have already eliminated Manchester United and Tottenham from this season's FA Cup.

Middlesbrough have offered a strong response to Chelsea's request to have their FA Cup quarter-final at the Riverside played behind closed doors.

Chelsea visit Boro on Saturday for the latest match of a sequence that has been overshadowed by sanctions imposed on club owner Roman Abramovich due to his links to Russian president Vladimir Putin, who ordered the invasion of Ukraine.

With Abramovich unable to make any money from his ownership of Chelsea, the club are under strict measures, unable to negotiate contracts but also restricted in sales of tickets and merchandise.

Tickets have only been released in the case they were purchased prior to the sanctions – such as season tickets – meaning Premier League games against Norwich City and Newcastle United were unaffected.

But the cup tie at Boro, which has only recently been confirmed, is set to go ahead without Chelsea fans in attendance.

The Blues therefore argued no supporters from either side should be present "for matters of sporting integrity" – a stance that was met on Tuesday with widespread criticism and ridicule, including from opponents Boro.

A Boro statement read: "We are aware of Chelsea's request to have Saturday's Emirates FA Cup sixth round tie played behind closed doors and find their suggestion both bizarre and without any merit whatsoever.

"All concerned are well aware of the reasons Chelsea have been sanctioned and that this has nothing to do with Middlesbrough Football Club.

"To suggest as result that MFC and our fans should be penalised is not only grossly unfair but without any foundation.

"Given the reasons for these sanctions, for Chelsea to seek to invoke sporting 'integrity' as reason for the game being played behind closed doors is ironic in the extreme.

"We currently await formal notification from the FA of the next steps but rest assured MFC will resist Chelsea's actions in the strongest terms."

Chelsea must play away at Lille on Wednesday before heading north to meet Boro, who have already eliminated Manchester United and Tottenham from this season's FA Cup.

Chelsea have called for Saturday's FA Cup tie with Middlesbrough to be played behind closed doors to "protect sporting integrity" after they were banned from selling tickets.

The Blues have been granted a special licence to continue operating after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the United Kingdom government.

However, as part of the restrictions placed on Chelsea, they are not allowed to sell any tickets that had not already been purchased prior to last week's announcement.

With no away fans in attendance for next weekend's quarter-final at the Riverside Stadium, Chelsea are pushing for home supporters to also be blocked from attending.

The Premier League club provided an update in a statement published on their official website on Tuesday.

It read: "Despite engaging in extensive discussions with the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI), the deadline to purchase away tickets has passed without appropriate amendments being made to the government licence which would allow a full allocation of Chelsea supporters to attend. 

"Executives at Middlesbrough had been kind enough to extend their deadline for ticket sales and stadium allocation from 7.30pm last night until 9.30am this morning.

"It is important for the competition that the match against Middlesbrough goes ahead, however it is with extreme reluctance that we are asking the FA board to direct that the game be played behind closed doors for matters of sporting integrity. 

"Chelsea recognise that such an outcome would have a huge impact on Middlesbrough and its supporters, as well as our own fans who have already bought the limited number of tickets that were sold before the licence was imposed, but we believe this is the fairest way of proceeding in the current circumstances.

"We will continue to discuss the issue of ticket sales with OFSI as there are a number of fixtures still to be played this season and we hope to reach a resolution."

Second-tier Middlesbrough, who eliminated Manchester United and Tottenham in the previous two rounds, have already sold out their allocation of tickets for the last-eight tie.

Chelsea are only permitted to spend around £20,000 on travelling to and from games, meaning that they will make the near-10 hour round journey to Middlesbrough via coach. 

The Blues can fly to France for Wednesday's Champions League tie with Lille due to the travel arrangements already having been put in place.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.