Newcastle have more strength in depth this season than we have had for many years so when the African Cup of Nations comes up in January in Gabon we should be able to cope quite well.
And while we will lose some of our best players for up to six weeks, Newcastle have good cover in all positions.
There are 16 countries who have qualified for the tournament early next year and they are Gabon, Morocco, Algeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe, Mali, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, DR Congo and Togo.
Mohammed Diame – we could miss his power
So the players involved from Newcastle could include Chancel Mbemba (DR Congo), Mohamed Diame (Senegal), Achraf Lazaar (Morocco) and Christian Atsu (Ghana).
Cheick Tiote could be involved but we doubt it – and Cheick may still leave Newcastle this month and he’s unlikely to be a regular if he stays on Tyneside.
The tournament runs from 14th January through 5th February 2017, but the countries usually want their players after the first game of the year.
So that’s probably a maximum of five league games they could miss and the 3rd round of the FA Cup – six games in total.
Mbemba will be a loss but we have Jamaal Lascelles, Grant Hanley and Ciaran Clark to play at center-back and Isaac Hayden and Jesus Gamez can also play there if required.
For Mohammed Diame we have plenty of cover in central midfield although his power will be missed.
We have Paul Dummett, Jesus Gamez and Sadio Haidara who can play at left back for Achraf Lazaar .
On the right wing for Christian Atsu we have a number of players including Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Perez and Yoan Gouffran who can play there.
So while we will lose four players to the AFCON we are better positioned than ever before to soften the blow in their absence.
We’re sure Rafa was thinking about the AFCON when he did some of his hiring in the summer.
Rafa leaves no stone unturned in his meticulous planning and preparation.