Rafa Benitez set to be missing 4 Newcastle players for crucial part of the season
The sheer scale of the 40+ transfers in and out of St James Park this summer and Moussa Sissoko’s move in particular, have allowed one transfer window issue to go under the radar.
New first team signings Achraf Lazaar, Mohamed Diame and Christian Atsu, all have one thing in common.
They play international football for countries who have already qualified for the finals of the African Cup of Nations 2017.
Diame plays for Senegal and they are guaranteed to top their qualifying group no matter what happens when they play Namibia on Sunday.
The same with Christian Atsu and Ghana when they face Rwanda today (Saturday), also the case with Achraf Lazaar and Morocco who play Sao Tome on Sunday.
The finals take place in January/February 2017 and all three Newcastle players look guaranteed to be involved, with almost certainly a fourth set to join them after Sunday’s matches.
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 last victory 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 on Sunday (4 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 the players involved would likely head off around the turn of the year, then possibly a week or so’s recovery time after the tournament has ended. When Cheick Tiote and Ivory Coast reached the final in 2012, he was missing 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.
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, no wonder Rafa Benitez has developed such a large squad to hopefully deal with all such issues.
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