The Africa Cup of Nations has already been postponed twice but when it is finally scheduled to get underway in January, players from 16 different Premier League clubs could miss their domestic fixtures.
Rumours had begun circulating that the tournament was in doubt due to concerns over the infrastructure in host nation Cameroon. It had already been pushed back, first due to fears that the Cameroonian summer would be too hot and latterly due to the impact of Covid.
With the competition due to take place between 9 January and 6 February, the Confederation of African Football have suggested that “urgent attention” needs to be paid to some areas of the tournament but noted that Cameroon had made “progress”. However, there was no mention of Afcon being cancelled or postponed.
That means that from late December, Premier League clubs could be missing a host of players from the participating countries.
Liverpool‘s title race is set to be heavily affected with Sadio Mane’s Senegal, Mo Salah’s Egypt and Naby Keita’s Guinea all having qualified.
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who plays for Gabon, and Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, who represents Algeria, are among the other high-profile Premier League stars expected to be involved.
If, according to reports, they are set to fly out after Boxing Day, they will be in line to miss five gameweeks. Salah and Mane, for example, could potentially be absent for Liverpool’s fixtures against Leicester, Chelsea, Brentford, Crystal Palace and Burnley depending on how far their national teams progress. Watford stand to be the worst affected, with five members of their current squad taking part.
Here’s every team who could be missing players if Afcon proceeds as planned. Leeds, Newcastle, Norwich and Tottenham are the only teams without any eligible players.