How could the African Cup of Nations impact Newcastle United, Norwich City, Watford and Burnley’s Premier League relegation fight?
Both Watford and Burnley will be missing players due to their involvement in the African Cup of Nations.
The African Cup of Nations gets underway on Sunday, affecting a number of clubs and players across the Premier League.
Newcastle United are one of four clubs in the division - also Norwich City, Tottenham Hotspur, Leeds United - not to be directly impacted. However, happenings at their top-flight rivals could have a big say on the relegation picture.
When is the African Cup of Nations?
The 2021 African Cup of Nations was initially due to be held between June and July 2021, however was delayed over Covid-19 fears and wet weather concerns.
It will take place this month, starting on January 9 and finishing on February 6, with Cameroon the host nation.
How will it impact the Premier League relegation battle?
Watford are impacted the most in terms of numbers with Claudio Ranieri losing Ismaila Sarr, Adam Masina, William Troost-Ekong and Imran Louz.
However, Ranieri was boosted by the controversial news that top scorer Emmanuel Dennis will not link up with Niergia for the tournament.
The former Club Brugge striker was withdrawn at half-time during the defeat to Tottenham Hotspur but is expected to return against Newcastle on January 15.
While the Hornets are set to part with the most players, it is in fact Burnley who are perhaps sweating the most with Maxwel Cornet called up for Ivory Coast.
Cornet is the Clarets’ top scorer with six, recently scoring a free-kick in the 3-1 defeat at Leeds United last time out.
The best-case scenario for teams missing players through AFCON is they are without them for only one FA Cup and Premier League match.
In the worst-case scenario, which is dependent on countries reaching the late knockout stages of AFCON, is players miss up to three league games, plus the third and fourth rounds of FA Cup.
Both Newcastle and Norwich City do not have any players involved in the AFCON.
What fixtures and other teams are affected?
Watford’s next three Premier League fixtures: Newcastle (A), Norwich (H), West Ham United (A).
Interestingly, Watford play Newcastle and Norwich City back-to-back mid to late January.
Meanwhile, Algerian’s Said Benrahma could still be missing for West Ham by the time the two sides meet.
Burnley’s next three Premier League fixtures: Leicester City (H), Arsenal (A), Manchester United (H).
The Clarets will host a Leicester side without Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi, Daniel Amartey and Nampalys Mendy.
Depending on how the competition progresses, Dyche’s side could then face Arsenal without Thomas Partey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Mohamed Elneny and Omar Rekik.
Manchester United, meanwhile, will lose Eric Bailly, Amad Diallo, Hannibal Mejbri. No big loss, really.
Newcastle’s next three Premier League fixtures: Watford (H), Leeds United (A), Everton (H).
Watford’s situation has already been explained. Indeed, no Leeds players have been called up for AFCON duty, while Everton are missing Alex Iwobi.
Norwich City’s next three Premier League fixtures: West Ham United (A), Everton (H), Watford (A).
As per above, West Ham will be without Benrahma for at least for the Norwich game. Iwobi could miss be missing for Everton.
While the Magpies and Dean Smith’s Canaries retain full squads, it could be seen as an opportunity to gain some much-needed ground on their relegation rivals.