Gruelling work ahead for sanctions-hit Chelsea as teams hunker down for FA Cup action

The top three teams in the English Premier League turn their attention to the FA Cup quarterfinals this week.

Of the three, Chelsea faces the gruelling 350km trip to Middlesbrough by train or coach, as it cannot afford to fly after Russian owner Roman Abramovich was hit by sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It comes after it returned from France, where it beat Lille to reach the last eight of the Champions League. It was allowed to fly to France as it had made arrangements before sanctions were in place.

Middlesbrough senses an opportunity for an upset and will have the full backing of its fans after the English FA denied Chelsea’s request for the match to be played behind closed doors, as it is not allowed to sell tickets.

Elsewhere, Manchester City and Liverpool are also on the road.

Manchester City, still reeling from its surprise 0-0 Premier League draw with Crystal Palace on Tuesday, should be too good for Southampton, which has lost its last three matches.

Liverpool travels to Nottingham Forest on a high after beating Arsenal on Thursday morning to cut Manchester City’s lead to just one point.

It is a remarkable turnaround, as on Jan 15, it was 14 points behind Manchester City, albeit playing two games less.

Forest is a dangerous opponent, as it beat the last two FA Cup champions – Arsenal and Leicester – in its previous two ties.

It has also won three of its last five league matches and hopes to earn promotion to the Premier League.

The final tie is between in-form Crystal Palace and a stuttering Everton.

Palace is unbeaten in four, winning two and earning that big draw with Manchester City.

Everton, meanwhile, has lost four of its last five league games, and is fourth from bottom in the Premier League.

In the Premier League, Arsenal will look to strengthen its position as the fourth-best team when it goes to the Midlands to face Aston Villa, while Tottenham and West Ham square off in a London derby.

Arsenal has 51 points from 27 games, one ahead of fifth-place Manchester United, which has played two matches more.

West Ham and Tottenham are sixth, and seventh, with 48 points each, and have played 28 matches.

FIXTURES (Malaysian time)
Premier League

Wolves vs Leeds (4am)
Aston Villa vs Arsenal (8.30pm)
Leicester vs Brentford (10pm)

Tottenham vs West Ham (12.30pm)

FA Cup (Quarterfinals)
Middlesbrough vs Chelsea (1.15am)
Crystal Palace vs Everton (8.30pm
Southampton vs Manchester City (11pm)

Nottingham Forest vs Liverpool (2am)

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