Nightmare for Rafa as late call up means Newcastle lose 2 players to Asian Cup
People have said Rafa Benitez deserves a medal if he repeats last season’s mid-table finish.
Well maybe you should make it a big medal, judging by the obstacles being thrown in his way.
Mike Ashley is obviously by far the biggest of those obstacles and has caused untold problems/issues for the manager – but now even his small squad of players are being hit by outside forces.
Ki Sung-yeung was confirmed as going to the Asian Cup some time ago, Newcastle set to lose the midfielder for up to nine games, seven in the Premier League and a possible two FA Cup ones.
However, Rafa was relieved to see Yoshinori Muto not named in Japan’s squad.
A Tuesday morning update has changed all that though, with the club confirming that the striker has now being a very late addition to Japan’s squad, Muto also set to be missing at this crucial stage of the season, just as he was coming back to full fitness.
The Asian Cup most definitely proving to be the new African Cup of Nations for NUFC when it comes to squad disruption.
Newcastle United official announcement:
‘Yoshinori Muto has been called up to the Japan squad for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
The Newcastle forward was not named in Hajime Moriyasu’s initial 23-man squad, but has now been called up for the tournament, which will take place in the United Arab Emirates from 5th January to 1st February 2019.
He will join up with his international colleagues after the Magpies’ home game against Manchester United on Wednesday, 2nd January and could miss four league games as well as the Emirates FA Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers.
The 26-year-old – who joined Newcastle from Mainz 05 in the summer after playing in the 2018 World Cup finals for his country – has scored once in 11 appearances (five starts) so far for Rafa Benítez’s side.
Japan have won the Asian Cup a record four times.
Muto’s Magpies team-mate Ki Sung-yueng will represent South Korea in the competition. He was captain of the squad which finished as runners up to Australia in 2015.’
The 2019 Asian Cup runs from 5 January to 1 February and the group matches for Ki Sung-yeung are 7-16 January and for Yoshinori Muto they are 9-17 January
FIFA rules state players should usually be released two weeks before their first game, which would be 24 December, meaning they are definitely available against Fulham as it stands.
Ki Sung-yeung said that Newcastle were trying to delay his departure beyond that date but no confirmation as yet.
As you can see, the club are claiming that Muto will still be at NUFC until after the Man Utd game, which is only a week before their first game in the Asian Cup.
If either or both players got all the way to the final then they could be set to miss up to seven/nine matches, starting with potentially Liverpool on Boxing day and the last one being Tottenham away which is on Sat 2 February, that would be seven Premier League matches and two FA Cup games, if NUFC beat Blackburn in the third round.
Even if either/both got knocked straight out in the group stages, it wouldn’t make a great deal of difference, as the only extra Premier League matches they could maybe get back for are Man City at home (22 Jan) and Spurs away (2 Feb).
The reality is though anyway, that both Japan and South Korea are seeded to get through the group stage with ease.
With Jonjo Shelvey having a thigh injury that Rafa won’t even assess again until after Saturday’s game with Fulham, the manager could clearly do with a helping hand in the January transfer window to strengthen his squad in pretty much any position apart from goalkeeper and centre-back.
After the group stages the knockout games are played:
Last 16 matches are 20-22 January
Quarter finals are 24 and 25 January
Semi finals 28 and 29 January
Final is 1 February
After that away match at Tottenham on 2 February, there will be only 13 Premier League matches remaining.
The NUFC PL schedule until 11 February 2019:
Saturday 22 December 2018
Newcastle v Fulham (3pm)
Wednesday 26 December 2018
Liverpool v Newcastle (3pm)
Saturday 29 December 2018
Watford v Newcastle (3pm)
Wednesday 2 January 2019 (Sky Sports)
Newcastle v Man Utd (8pm)
Saturday 5 January 2019 (Overseas Live TV – Not UK)
Newcastle v Blackburn (5.30pm)
Saturday 12 January 2019 (BT Sport)
Chelsea v Newcastle (5.30pm)
Saturday 19 January 2019
Newcastle v Cardiff (3pm)
Tuesday 29 January 2019 (BT Sport)
Newcastle v Man City (8pm)
(Next 2 games could still be moved for Live TV)
Saturday 2 February 2019 (Sky Sports)
Tottenham v Newcastle (12.30pm)
Monday 11 February 2019 (Sky Sports)
Wolves v Newcastle (8pm)
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