LOST TO AFRICA: How 2017 AFCON Is Affecting 10 EPL Clubs
The 2017 Africa Cup of Nations starts in Gabon in on Saturday and most of the English Premier League clubs will be without key players.
In this piece, Completesportsnigeria.com's JAMES AGBEREBI ranks 10 clubs and how missing certain players will affect them…
1. LEICESTER CITY: Daniel Amartey (Ghana); Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani (Algeria)
English Premier League champions Leicester City will be losing three key players Daniel Amartey, Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani to Ghana and Algeria respectively for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
Leicester have been a shadow of the side that stunned the football world last season by storming all the way to the title. They are currently struggling in the league and losing three important players could do more damage to their disappointing season.
Professional Football Association Player of the Season, Mahrez, may have been unimpressive this season but is still being relied upon by Leicester faithful. Mahrez has made 20 appearances, scoring three goals for Leicester.
Mahrez's Algerian teammate, Slimani, is joint top scorer with Jamie Vardy on five goals for Leicester this season having played 13 league games.
Amartey, 22, has impressed, appearing in 17 of his team's 20 leagues games, scoring one goal.
2. SUNDERLAND: Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia), Lamine Kone (Ivory Coast), Didier Ndong (Gabon)
Currently 18th in the league table, Sunderland need every one of their players to be available as they try to wriggle out of the relegation zone.
Unfortunately, they will have to do without the trio of Cote d'Ivoire's Lamine Kone, Tunisia's Wahbi Khazri and Didier Ndong of Gabon.
Kone missed Sunderland's 2-2 home draw against Liverpool due to injury but could recover in time for the Ivory Coast team who are AFCON champions.
And Kone who has made 17 appearances for the Black Cats so far, has formed a formidable defensive partnership with Papy Djilobodji.
Hosts of this year's AFCON, Gabon, will be banking on Ndong to win their first ever continental title. Ndong has seen action 16 times this season.
Khazri, with 11 EPL appearances, is one player who would have been a useful squad player for Sunderland but whose service will be needed by Tunisia in Gabon.
3. WATFORD: Nordin Amrabat (Morocco), Brice Dja Djedje (Ivory Coast), Adlene Guedioura (Algeria)
Watford are not having the best of times this season and the thought of losing three players to the 2017 AFCON will surely be disheartening.
Morocco's Nordim Amrabat(18 appearances), Cote d'Ivoire's Brice Dja Djedje (yet to feature) and Algeria's Adlene Guedioura (12 appearances) have all been called up for this year's tournament.
With Watford already without six players Camilo Zuniga, Isaac Success, Daryl Janmaat, Adrian Mariappa, Roberto Pereira, Stefano Okaka, who are all injured, this will surely be a trying moment for the Hornets.
4. HULL CITY: Ahmed Elmohamady (Egypt), Dieumerci Mbokani (DR Congo)
Rooted to the bottom of the EPL league table and currently managerless, Hull will have to soldier on in their quest to survive relegation without Egypt's Ahmed Elmohamady and DR Congo's Dieumerci Mbokani.
While Elmohamady has played 19 of Hull's 20 league games, Mbokani has seen action just nine times without scoring a single goal.
5. CRYSTAL PALACE: Bakary Sako (Mali), Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast)
Despite replacing Alan Pardew with Sam Allardyce, Crystal Palace have continued to struggle.
And losing their most potent forward Wilfred Zaha to Cote d'Ivoire is a hard blow to take.
Zaha has been a super regular for Palace this season, with 19 appearances, scoring four goals.
Also set to head to Gabon is Mali's Bakary Sako who is expected to feature for Mali.
Sako's absence might not be felt much as he has only made four appearances in the league this season.
6. LIVERPOOL: Sadio Mane (Senegal)
Without doubt one of the players of the season, Sadio Mane will be missed by Liverpool in their away clash against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
But aside from the game against United, Liverpool should be able to pull through in other games without their Senegalese forward.
Mane is currently Liverpool's highest goal scorer in the EPL with nine goals from 19 apearances.
7. WEST HAM: Andre Ayew (Ghana), Cheikou Kouyate (Senegal)
The Hammers will be without influencial midfielder Cheikou Kouyate who will be in Gabon with Senegal.
Kouyate has only missed two of West Ham's 20 league appearances so far this season, an indication that he is one of Slaven Bilic's regulars.
Aside from Kouyate, Bilic will have to do without Ghana's Andre Ayew who has made 12 appearances despite being injured early in the current campaign.
8. MANCHESTER UNITED: Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast)
Eric Bailly's brilliant start to life at Old Trafford was interrupted following an injury in October.
The former Villarreal defender, who has 12 outings under his belt in the league with United, was back to fitness in December but has already headed off to Gabon to help Cote d'Ivoire defend their title.
Though Bailly will be missed, United should be able to have suitable replacements.
9. ARSENAL: Ismael Bennacer (Algeria), Mohamed Elneny (Egypt)
With midfielders Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin out injured and Jack Wilshere on loan at Bournemouth, Mohamed Elneny heading to Gabon for the AFCON would be seen as a big loss for Arsenal.
The 24-year-old may not be among the first choice midfield options for Arsenal, but with the shortage in the middle of the park, he would have been able to do a job for his team.
For Ismael Bennacer, he is yet to make his debut for Arsenal.
10. STOKE CITY: Wilfried Bony (Cote d'Ivoire), Mame Biram Diouf (Senegal), Ramadan Sobhi (Egypt)
Stoke City should be okay without three of their players who will be in Gabon for the 2017 AFCON.
Cote d'Ivoire's Wilfred Bony has not been impressive since joining the Potters on loan from Manchester City.
Bony has seen action 10 times this season, scoring just two goals.
Senegal's Mame Biram Diouf has played 15 times without registering a single goal for Stoke this season, while Egypt's Ramadan Sobhi has a goal from seven league appearances. Sobhi has mostly come on as a substitute the few times he has played.
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