After being delayed twice, the Africa Cup of Nations 2021 is almost upon us.
Originally slated for June this year, the tournament was first moved to February, before the Covid-19 pandemic forced another delay.
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Cameroon will host the showpiece that sees Algeria defend the title it won two years ago.
And despite the competition taking place in the middle of the domestic season, many of the Premier League stars will play.
When do Premier League players leave for AFCON?
With AFCON taking place mid-season, several Premier League clubs are going to be affected by the departure of their players.
The contest runs from Sunday, January 9th through Sunday, February 6.
This year 24 nations are competing, with six groups of four teams each in the group stage.
This will be followed by the traditional knockouts, before the final on 6 February in Olembe.
With the preparations ahead of the big kick-off, it was expected that the Prem players would reunite with their teammates around the new year.
But officials have decided that all players can stay with their parent club as long as 3 January.
A statement read: “The CAF has decided that for players who have official club matches between 27 December 2021 and 3 January 2022, the participating member associations in question are to be instructed that these players will not participate in these matches.” Can stay with their clubs to pick up. And will be released after the last match during this period.”
As a result, Liverpool have Mo Salah and Sadio Mane for their big clash with Chelsea on 2 January.
When will they return?
It certainly depends on how well each individual nation performs in the tournament.
But if the team of Prem players makes it to the finals, they will return to their club before Gameweek 24 on February 8.
Due to the third round of the FA Cup in the second weekend of January, Premier League players could potentially just miss two Top-flight match because of his AFCON involvement.
But should a country reach the final – for example – on 6 February – it is possible that they will need a rest after a month of tournament football before returning to domestic competition.
Here’s what the Premier League’s schedule currently looks like, although things could change due to the massive postponement of games over Christmas due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
- Gameweek 21 (PL players available) – January 1-3
- FA Cup Third Round – 7-10 January
- Gameweek 22 – January 14-16
- Gameweek 23 – January 21-23
- Gameweek 24 (PL players return in time for these games) – February 8-10
- Gameweek 25 – February 12-13