Chelsea's attempt to win the Club World Cup is in significant doubt after FIFA announced that Japan has withdrawn from hosting the tournament because of Covid-19 restrictions in the country.
The Blues qualified for the tournament after their Champions League victory over Manchester City in May.
Japan had been due to host the Club World Cup – which features the champions of the six continental federations – following Qatar's stint as host in 2019 and 2020.
But reports in the country on Wednesday claimed that the Japanese Football Association (JFA) has told FIFA of its decision to give up hosting the competition later this year because of a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections.
That stance – and the subsequent withdrawal of Japan as hosts – was confirmed in a short statement released by FIFA on Thursday.
It read: "FIFA can confirm that it has been informed today by the Japan Football Association (JFA) that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and hosting situation in the country, they are no longer in a position to host the FIFA Club World Cup 2021™.
"FIFA would like to thank the JFA for their work and commitment and looks forward to going back to Japan in the future. Further details about an alternative host for the FIFA Club World Cup 2021 will be announced by FIFA in due course.."
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According to ESPN, the 2021 Club World Cup is now set to move to a new location, with Qatar believed to be the frontrunners.
Such a move would allow Qatar the opportunity to have a practice run at hosting a tournament ahead of the 2022 World Cup, but no official decision has yet been taken.
Even if the competition is moved to a new location, Chelsea will still face the prospect of a fixture congestion nightmare, with Premier League games against Wolves and Aston Villa scheduled for December 18 and 26 respectively.
The 2020 Club World Cup, won by Bayern Munich, was staged in the unfamiliar slot of February after the competition was postponed by two months because of the pandemic.
There's no guarantee that FIFA would not seek to do something similar this time around, but with little room in the calendar to re-schedule the tournament, sources told ESPN that a new host is the most likely outcome.
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