Whilst Moussa Sissoko is Newcastle’s token presence at this summer’s Euros, Chancel Mbemba has been busy on international duty away from the spotlight.
Playing for DR Congo, in their latest game Chancel Mbemba and his team-mates handed out a 6-1 drubbing to Madagascar, with Bolasie of Crystal Palace amongst the goalscorers.
The match was game five of their qualifying campaign for the 2017 African Cup of Nations and results so far have been:
14 June 2015 DR Congo 2 Madagascar 1
6 September 2015 Central African Republic 2 DR Congo 0
26 March 2016 DR Congo 2 Angola 1
29 March 2016 Angola 0 DR Congo 2
5 June 2016 Madagascar 1 DR Congo 6
That latest victory has put DR Congo and Chancel Mbemba on the brink of qualifying for the finals, with 12 points they are two ahead of nearest challenger Central African Republic who they face at home in the first week of September, a draw or better would confirm them as group winners.
All 13 group winners and the two best runners-up (plus hosts Gabon) will qualify for the finals tournament.
These are scheduled to take place from 14 January to 5 February 2017 and past experience tells us that Chancel Mbemba would likely head off at the turn of the year, then possibly a week or more recovery time after the tournament has ended.
In the 46 game Championship there are a lot of matches to be fitted in and for example, Champions Burnley had seven Championship matches (plus FA Cup) in a six week period at the start of 2016.
The equivalent of the European Championships, Chancel Mbemba would undoubtedly take part if they qualify and leave a big hole to fill at a crucial time of the season.
Newcastle of course have plenty of experience regarding the impact of the African Cup of Nations in recent years, with Cheick Tiote, Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba having all taken part in the competition which falls in the middle of the English league season.
Senegal have already qualified for the finals and Ivory Coast need only a draw in their final match against Sierra Leone to make it to Gabon – but neither Cisse or Tiote are in their national squads these days.
The need for a decent side sized squad to cope with a 46 match season and players missing through injury, suspension or whatever, is further emphasised by the fact that Aleksandar Mitrovic will miss the first four matches of the Championship season, thanks to his crazy challenge and sending off against Tottenham on the final day.