Chelsea hit out at cup kick-offs

ROBERTO di Matteo has complained of a failure of common sense after it was announced Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham will kick off 6pm on Sunday 15 April – 48 hours later than the club had pleaded for.

The FA announced kick-off times for the two semi-finals at Wembley, and there will be an early start for 70,000 Merseysiders with Liverpool v Everton kicking off at 12:30pm on the Saturday.

Interim Chelsea manager di Matteo had wanted their semi-final to be on the Friday night to give Chelsea more time to recover ahead of a possible Champions League semi-final first leg against Barcelona or AC Milan on Wednesday, April 18.

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Those hopes have been dashed, however, and with ITV pushing to show the match at prime time on Sunday rather than lunchtime, the FA have decided it will start at 6pm.

That kick-off time will also avoid a clash with Manchester United’s Premier League match against Aston Villa, showing live on Sky at 4pm.

Di Matteo said yesterday: “I’d say that common sense hasn’t prevailed. We’ve tried to cooperate with the authorities and given them our point of view. It seems that it’s not been really taken into consideration.

“I’d be happy with a Friday night kick-off, yes. That’s what I’d be happy with.”

The all-London semi-final could not be on the Saturday either because Liverpool had asked not to play on the Sunday as it coincides with the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

FA sources say the timing of the Liverpool v Everton match was partly to do with engineering works on the railways later that day – if it had kicked off any later fans would have been unable to return to Merseyside by rail.