Many Premier League teams are unsure about the availability of a number of their players in January, due to concerns around the upcoming African Cup of Nations.
The tournament is due to kick off on January 9 but the governing body of African football has stated that ‘urgent attention’ is needed from host nation Cameroon as currently the conditions are not deemed fit for the tournament.
These are said to be ‘infrastructure problems’ and many on social media have speculated that the tournament could be cancelled due to these. A press release from the governing body has stated that this isn’t the case at the moment.
However, were it to be the case the tournament was postponed or cancelled, it would deny Newcastle an advantage they were set to receive throughout the time the tournament went on.
Newcastle are one of few teams in the league who do not have any players who would be called up to the tournament, meaning that they would potentially have a full-strength side to call on, whilst their opponents options would be weakened by international call-ups.
Those games and the players who could miss out are plentiful.
First up would be Manchester United on December 27th, who would likely have Eric Bailly and Amad Diallo missing – though they are hardly star players for the Red Devils.
Following that, the Magpies face Everton on December 30th. Alex Iwobi has started regularly for his club recently but he is also a starter for Nigeria, so he would be unavailable.
January 2 sees Newcastle face Southampton, who would be without key centre back Mohammed Salisu as he is a Ghanaian international.
After that comes a potentially crucial match against Watford. Watford have several African players, with star man Ismaila Sarr a Senegalese international and centre back William Troost-Ekong another Nigerian international.
In the last two matches in particular, Newcastle might hope to get a big advantage and pick up vital points. However, should the tournament be cancelled this would take away the advantage.
One might imagine that those at St James’ Park will be quietly hoping that the ‘infrastructure issues’ in Cameroon will be solved. As they look to climb out of the relegation places, it’s likely the Magpies will hope for any advantage they can get on the field.