The Premier League could be set to lose around 40 players after the boxing day round of fixtures has concluded.
The Athletic reports that the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) could strip some Premier League clubs of multiple key assets throughout January and into February.
This could mean that the potential crucial title match-up between Liverpool and Chelsea could see them without key players such as Edouard Mendy, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Only four clubs will be unaffected by AFCON including Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United, and Leeds United – five if you include Brighton’s Yves Bissouma, who currently doesn’t play for Mali due to personal reasons.
FIFA rules state that “players must be released and start to travel to their representative team no later than Monday morning the week preceding the week when the relevant final competition starts.”
However, Premier League clubs are keen to get the provisional date of the tournament, currently set to start on January 9 when hosts Cameroon play Burkina Faso, pushed back a bit later. If this date were to remain in place, it means players would leave on Monday December 27, a whole 13 days prior to the starting date of the tournament.
Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, and Watford would be the other big losers in terms of players who would become unavailable for selection for at least the next month.
The first three would lose four each, with The Gunners losing club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Palace losing talisman Wilfried Zaha.
Watford would lose a staggering five players, including Ismaila Sarr.
The Athletic also reported that all 20 Premier League clubs are still not 100% sure on the details, with them all to be finalised.
This could leave teams such as Liverpool and Chelsea in a precarious position in terms of the title race, with other clubs also suffering further down to the table.