Football

Leicester hit hardest by African Nations Cup departures

Foxes could have up to five players going to the African Nations Cup next month

Every two years, English Premier League clubs head into the Christmas period knowing it will be the last time they see some key players for a month.

With the 2017 African Nations Cup (ANC) looming, that's the case again this season.

Most top-flight teams will lose players next month and in February - the tournament takes place from Jan 14 to Feb 5.

While the 23-man squads are yet to be announced - the deadline is Jan 4 - Leicester face the prospect of losing five members of their squad, while Liverpool could be without Sadio Mane for as many as 10 games.

Others, however, will face no disruption whatsoever.

Title rivals Manchester City and Tottenham are among the lucky ones - good news considering they are due to meet on Jan 21.

At City, Nigerian Kelechi Iheanacho will be staying put as his nation failed to qualify for the Finals in Gabon, while Yaya Toure has retired from international football.

As for Spurs, the only African in their squad is Victor Wanyama, whose Kenyan side have also failed to qualify.

BOTTOM CLUBS FEEL PINCH

Nigeria's absence is also good news for Chelsea, who will get to keep Jon Obi Mikel and Victor Moses, while Arsenal (Mohamed Elneny) and Manchester United (Eric Bailly) also face minimal disruption.

Of the teams towards the top of the table, Liverpool will surely miss Mane, heading to Gabon with Senegal.

Mane is likely to miss big Anfield league games with both Man United and Chelsea, as well as the Reds' League Cup semi-final clash.

At least Liverpool will keep defender Joel Matip, who has turned down the chance to relaunch his Cameroon career.

It is clubs lower down the table who look likely to feel the biggest effects of the competition. Champions Leicester are one of four clubs set to lose four of their squad.

The Foxes will see reigning PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez and striker Islam Slimani head to Gabon with Algeria, while Daniel Amartey and Jeffrey Schlupp (both Ghana) are also expected to depart.

There remains a chance that Tunisian Yohan Benalouane, yet to be capped, could also leave the Foxes.

Given their recent struggles, Everton could do without the loss of Idrissa Gueye - their star performer this sesason.

Crystal Palace will hardly have been overjoyed to discover Wilfried Zaha has switched his allegiance from England to Ivory Coast while, in the relegation fight, neither Sunderland nor West Ham will be relishing the New Year period.

Both clubs will lose four key players to the ANC.

Fifa rules state players must be released by their clubs on the morning of Monday, Jan 2, meaning anyone involved faces the prospect of missing a total of five Premier League matches.

The third and fourth rounds of the FA Cup (and its third-round replays) also fall within the dates when players could be away.

The clubs still in the League Cup - Liverpool, Man United, Southampton and Hull - also face the prospect of being without their African stars for both legs of the semi-finals - the second legs take place during the ANC, while the first games are held just a few days before it begins. - PA SPORT


WHO'S AFFECTED

ARSENAL: Mohamed Elneny (Egypt)
Not going: Alex Iwobi (Nigeria) - DNQ

BOURNEMOUTH: Max Gradel (Ivory Coast)

BURNLEY: Tendayi Darikwa (Zimbabwe)

CHELSEA: None
Not going: Victor Moses, Jon Obi Mikel (Nigeria)

CRYSTAL PALACE: Kwesi Appiah (Ghana), Bakary Sako (Mali), Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast)
Not going: Pape Souare (Senegal) - injured

EVERTON: Idrissa Gueye (Senegal), Arouna Kone (Ivory Coast), Oumar Niasse (Senegal)
Not going: Yannick Bolasie (Congo) - injured

HULL: Ahmed Elmohamady (Egypt), Dieumerci Mbokani (Congo)

LEICESTER: Daniel Amartey (Ghana), Yohan Benalouane (Tunisia), Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani (Algeria), Jeffrey Schlupp (Ghana)
Not going: Ahmed Musa (Nigeria)

LIVERPOOL: Sadio Mane (Senegal)
Not going: Joel Matip (Cameroon) - skip

MAN CITY: None
Not going: Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria); Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast) - (retired)

MAN UNITED: Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast)

MIDDLESBROUGH: Adama Traore (Mali)
Not going: Emilio Nsue (Equatorial Guinea) - DNQ

SOUTHAMPTON: Sofiane Boufal (Morocco)

STOKE: Wilfried Bony (Ivory Coast), Mame Biram Diouf (Senegal), Ramadan Sobhi (Egypt)

SUNDERLAND: Papy Djilobodji (Senegal), Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia), Lamine Kone (Ivory Coast), Didier Ndong (Gabon).
Not going: Victor Anichebe (Nigeria), Steven Pienaar (South Africa) - DNQ

SWANSEA: None
Not going: Modou Barrow (Gambia) - DNQ

TOTTENHAM: None
Not going: Victor Wanyama (Kenya) - DNQ

WATFORD: Nordin Amrabat (Morocco), Brice Dja Djedje (Ivory Coast), Adlene Guedioura (Algeria)
Not going: Odion Ighalo and Isaac Success (Nigeria)

WEST BROM: None
Not going: Brendan Galloway (Zimbabwe) - skip, Allan Nyom (Cameroon) - skip

WEST HAM: Andre Ayew (Ghana), Sofiane Feghouli (Algeria), Cheikhou Kouyate & Diafra Sakho (Senegal)
Not going: Pedro Obiang (Equatorial Guinea)

  • This is only a list of possible absentees. Final squads must be named by Jan 4.
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