Sunday night has seen confirmation that Chancel Mbemba is set to miss a sizeable part of Newcastle’s mid-season.
DR Congo beat Central African Republic 4-1 in front of an ecstatic 80,000 home fans in Kinshasa to top their qualifying group.
Chancel Mbemba and his teammates have now qualified for the finals of the African Cup of Nations which takes place in Gabon from 14 January to 5 February 2017.
Past experience tells us that the players involved would likely head off around the turn of the year for training camps, then some recovery time after their participation in the tournament has ended..
When Cheick Tiote and Ivory Coast reached the final in 2012, he was missing from Newcastle’s first team for over seven weeks, playing in the 3-0 win over Manchester United on 4 January 2012 – then not appearing again for United until the final weekend of February 2012.
Chancel Mbemba will compete in Gabon against Newcastle teammates Achraf Lazaar, Mohamed Diame and Christian Atsu, all three of them having already seen their countries topping their respective groups and qualifying for the finals before this last group match stage. These three other Newcastle players representing Morocco, Senegal and Ghana respectively.
All 13 group winners and the two best runners-up (plus hosts Gabon) qualify for the finals of the tournament.
Looking at Newcastle’s fixtures, they play eight Championship games (plus at least one FA Cup match) between 31 December 2016 (Forest at home) and 14 February 2017 (Norwich away) – a time period of only just over six weeks.
Those of course are extremes but even if we say four players who are very likely all going to be first choice for Newcastle, missing probably around six games each, it is understandable why Rafa Benitez has developed such a large squad to hopefully deal with all such issues.