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Furious reaction to Chelsea's FA Cup plea as Thomas Tuchel hits out at Boris Johnson

Chelsea want Saturday’s match on Teeside to be played behind closed doors.

Josh Coburn scores Middlesbrough's winner at a packed Riverside Stadium in the last round against Tottenham. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Middlesbrough have reacted angrily to Chelsea's attempt to get their FA Cup quarter-final played without fans this weekend.

Chelsea want Saturday’s match on Teeside to be played behind closed doors after the Government blocked the Blues from selling tickets for the Riverside clash.

The Blues have lobbied Government hard over relaxations to the strict operating licence put in place after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by Downing Street.

Russian-Israeli billionaire Abramovich must not profit in the UK under the Government sanctions, and Chelsea are blocked from selling any more tickets in the terms of their new licence.

And after talks with the Government failed to yield a softening on that ticket stance, the Blues have now questioned the FA Cup quarter-final’s “sporting integrity” should Chelsea fans be barred from attending.

“We are disappointed to announce we will not be able to sell tickets for Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough,” read a Chelsea statement.

“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 FC recognises 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.”

Boro were quick to voice their displeasure over Chelsea’s request, labelling it “bizarre and without any merit whatsoever” and claiming it was “ironic in the extreme” that the Blues were seeking to invoke sporting “integrity” as the reason to get the game played at an empty stadium.

The Teessiders said in a statement: “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.”

Meanwhile, Thomas Tuchel has questioned Boris Johnson’s “priorities” after the Prime Minister urged Chelsea fans to stop chanting for owner Abramovich.

Chelsea owner Abramovich has been sanctioned by the Government after Downing Street claimed to have proven the 55-year-old’s links to Vladimir Putin.

The Russian-Israeli billionaire put the London club up for sale on March 2 amid Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine, with some Blues fans continuing to chant his name.

Chelsea can operate under special Government licence despite Abramovich’s other UK assets being frozen, with the club’s bosses lobbying Downing Street on relaxations to allow the Champions League holders to operate close to normal fashion.

The Government will oversee Chelsea’s sale with Abramovich barred from profiting amid the sanctions, with New York merchant bank Raine Group setting a March 18 deadline for bids.

The majority of Chelsea fans drowned out chants for Abramovich in Sunday’s 1-0 Stamford Bridge win over Newcastle, but that has not stopped the Prime Minister from making his feelings clear.

And head coach Tuchel was left nonplussed by the intervention, amid Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine.

When quizzed on Johnson’s call on Chelsea fans, Tuchel replied: “I just heard about it some minutes ago. I don’t know if, in these times, if it is the most important discussion to have in Parliament.

“I don’t know if fan chants being discussed in Parliament means that we have to worry about the priorities of this Government.

“But OK… Listen, no need to comment from me. We have really far more urgent things to discuss and handle.

“There are restrictions and we have to deal with it. There are adjustments in the amount of staff, who is travelling, how many rooms we have in hotels and how we arrive at matches.”

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