Top Premier League Teams To Suffer With Stars Away At The 2017 AFCON
The 2017 AFCON will take place in Gabon this month, and while it is highly-anticipated by players and fans, English Premier League coaches will be cringing at the thought of losing key players to the prestigious biennial tournament that will determine the champions of Africa.
The tournament begins this coming weekend on January 14, with the final on February 5, but players called up to the various squads are expected in camp weeks in advance of the first kick-off, disrupting Premier League clubs which have survived the busy festive season fixture list and are looking to start the new year off on the right foot.
There will be a collective sigh of relief from coaches such as Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and Chelsea’s Antonio Conte, as Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the Nations Cup means that they will not lose Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Victor Moses respectively.
But while some teams will not be heavily affected by AFCON duty, others will be deprived of top quality within their squads during the three-week competition.
Three EPL teams will be severely impacted by the 2017 Nations Cup, not necessarily in terms of numbers, but certainly in terms of quality.
Sadio Mane will be absent from the Liverpool squad during the AFCON, thanks to the winger’s departure to join Senegal’s Teranga Lions in their quest to be crowned African champs.
The prolific attacker has been in tantalising form since joining Liverpool from Southampton in a £34 million deal to become Africa’s most expensive player. He will miss the derby against fierce rivals Manchester United on January 15, the same day in which Mane’s Senegal will face a stiff test against Tunisia.
His finishing, power and pace will be sorely missed at Anfield, and Reds fans may secretly be wishing for Senegal to be eliminated in the group stages, ensuring a speedy return for their 24-year-old.
While Liverpool will face Man United without Mane in attack, they will be pleased to note that their opponents will be lacking the industrious defensive abilities of Eric Bailly. The defender has joined current champions Cote D’Ivoire for their title defence, and will not be available to coach Jose Mourinho for an extended period.
Bailly has been a decisive addition to the United backline, adding solidity and impressing with his no-nonsense approach. His team-mates will miss his determined tackling.
Premier League champions Leicester are in for a shock when they lose four players to AFCON action for the next few weeks, as the footballers in question represent favourites Algeria and Ghana. New Fennec Foxes coach Georges Leekens will be counting on the talents of star midfielder, and recently named African Player of the Year for 2016, Riyad Mahrez and striker Islam Slimani, exhausting Claudio Ranieri’s attacking options in one fell swoop.
But the Italian will have to worry about more than just his Algerians this month, as Ghanaians Daniel Amartey and Jeffrey Schlupp may be members of the Black Stars team looking to go a step further than their runners-up finish in 2015.
Amartey was signed as N’Golo Kante’s replacement in the European summer, and will leave a gaping hole in the Leicester midfield, while Schlupp’s contribution going forward will be a significant loss during a period in which the Foxes are set to face Manchester United and Chelsea at home, along with FA Cup commitments.
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