Africa Cup of Nations: Bad news for Liverpool and Arsenal
League leaders Chelsea have no players missing but many of their rivals could be without key personnel for more than a month
The Africa Cup of Nations gets underway in Gabon next week, with several Premier League stars already departed and likely to miss key games through their participation in the tournament.
Of the teams at the top of the table it could be Liverpool who suffer most, as they will be without their influential Senegal forward Sadio Mane for several weeks.
"Mane is likely to miss big Anfield league games with both Manchester United and Chelsea, as well as the Reds' EFL Cup semi-final clash," reports Sporting Life. "He could miss as many as nine games if Senegal make the final."
The Reds could also find themselves without Cameroon defender Joel Matip even though he has rejected the chance to play for his country after a bizarre row that could end with Fifa banning the player.
"Liverpool actually thought Matip had retired from international football, but if so the Cameroon coach Hugo Broos did not appear to get the message and named him in his squad," reports The Guardian. "The German‑born defender still has no intention of joining Cameroon in Gabon but Broos has indicated he may ask Fifa to invoke sanctions."
If he convinces Fifa that Liverpool swayed the defender's decision he could be suspended from football for the duration of the tournament.
Chelsea's two African players, Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel represent Nigeria so they will not be affected by the tournament that runs from 14 January to 5 February. There will be no impact on Manchester City as Kelechi Iheanacho is also Nigerian, while Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure has retired from international duty.
However, Manchester United have already been hit by the absence of Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly, who only recently returned from a knee injury. He missed the game against West Ham this week after being summoned to training camp on 2 January.
Arsenal will be missing Mohamed Elneny, who is in the Egypt squad. That may not seem like a problem, but the Gunners are already without Santi Cazorla and are sweating on the fitness of Francis Coquelin who was injured against Bournemouth on Tuesday.
"With Jack Wilshere on loan at Bournemouth, all of a sudden Arsenal only have two available central midfielders in Granit Xhaka and the low on confidence Aaron Ramsey," says the Daily Telegraph.
The Gunners's arch rivals Spurs are unaffected with Victor Wanyama's Kenya failing to qualify. But there is more bad news for struggling champions Leicester who will be without Algerian stars Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani, plus Daniel Amartey of Ghana.
Stoke and Sunderland will also be missing three players, while Crystal Palace, Hull, Watford and West Ham will all miss two players.
Premier League players going to African Cup of Nations:
Mohamed Elneny (Egypt)
Max Gradel (Ivory Coast)
Bakary Sako (Mali), Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast),
Idrissa Gueye (Senegal)
Ahmed Elmohamady (Egypt), Dieumerci Mbokani (DR Congo)
Daniel Amartey (Ghana), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria), Islam Slimani (Algeria),
Sadio Mane (Senegal)
Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast)
Sofiane Boufal (Morocco)
Wilfried Bony (Ivory Coast), Mame Biram Diouf (Senegal), Ramadan Sobhi (Egypt)
Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia), Lamine Kone (Ivory Coast), Didier Ndong (Gabon)
Nordin Amrabat (Morocco), Adlene Guedioura (Algeria)
Andre Ayew (Ghana), Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal)