The 2017 African Cup of Nations takes place in Gabon from January 14th until the 5th February, although players will be leaving to join up with their squads in early January.
Newcastle will lose Mo Diame (Senegal), Christian Atsu (Ghana), Achraf Lazaar (Morocco) and Chancel Mbemba (DR Congo) during that time with an outside chance of Cheick Tiote making it in the Ivory Coast squad since he is now fully fit if not match fit.
Mo Diame in training
Of those five players only Mo Diame has been a regular starter for Rafa Benitez this season, so we are not likely to miss the African players too much.
Mo Diame has turned out to be a good buy for us for just £4.5M from Hull City and he thinks the Newcastle squad is big enough and good enough so that their absence during January and possibly early February will not impact the team.
This is what he said yesterday as reported in the Shields Gazette:
“I want to contribute before I go away,”
“We have a big squad – a quality squad – so I’m very confident with the team the manager can play when I have to leave.”
“Anyone can play. We know what we have to do. Every single player has to come in and give something to the team.”
“It’s important we all do, but I want to contribute now.”
Next up are Sheffield Wednesday next Monday night and it will be important that we win the game to keep the winning streak – currently at three games – going.
Here are the Newcastle games through early February and some of them will be missed by our African players away in Gabon.
December 2016 Newcastle v Sheffield Wednesday Mon 26 Dec 19:45 Newcastle v Nottingham Forest Fri 30 Dec 19:45 January 2017 Blackburn Rovers v Newcastle Mon 2 Jan 15:00 Birmingham City v Newcastle Sat 7 Jan 15:00 - FA Cup Brentford v Newcastle Mon 16 Jan 19:45 Newcastle v Rotherham United Sat 21 Jan 15:00 Brighton v Newcastle Sat 28 Jan 15:00 February 2017 Newcastle v QPR Wed 1 Feb 19:45 Newcastle v Derby County Sat 4 Feb 15:00