A handful of Premier League teams are set to be affected by the Asian Cup this year.
Running from January 5 to February 1, the continental tournament will take some players away from club duty for the first month of 2019.
All players going to the United Arab Emirates without special instructions will be there until at least January 17, when the final group stage match is played.
That means even those eliminated in the first round could be absent for Gameweeks 22 and 23, although some of those selected for their countries will be missing long before then in order to participate in pre-tournament training camps.
Those who make it as far as the final will be away from the Premier League as late as Gameweek 25 and would target a return in Gameweek 26.
We’ve gone over which teams will be affected the most to see what impact the Asian Cup could have on our Fantasy Premier League teams.
Brighton and Hove Albion (2 players)
The biggest impact the Asian Cup will have on Brighton is the absence of first-choice goalkeeper Mat Ryan (£4.5m). The Gameweek 18 trip to Bournemouth was his penultimate game for the Seagulls until Australia are knocked out of the tournament. The Socceroos are one of the pre-tournament favourites, so Chris Hughton may be without Ryan for some time.
His absence does present an interesting opportunity to Fantasy managers as either one of David Button (£4.0m) or Jason Steele (£4.0m) will deputise for him. Whichever one gets the nod will become the only starting goalkeeper at £4.0m in the Premier League. We may have to wait for Chris Hughton to give us a clue.
According to the Brighton Argus, it is Steele who has officially understudied for Ryan recently. The former Sunderland shot-stopper has been the substitute goalkeeper for the last eight league games. Meanwhile, Button is currently “playing catch-up” on him since returning from a knee injury that kept him out for five weeks before December.
However, there is no doubting that Button was second-choice to Ryan before that knock. He played more pre-season minutes than Steele, started the August League Cup defeat to Southampton and was on the bench for the first nine Premier League matches of the campaign. Now that he is fit again, he will be gunning for the number one jersey in late December and early January.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for whoever gets the nod. I can’t wait for it to happen. I’ve just come back to training and I needed to play a game before I could be involved with the first team. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully, that will come in time. West Ham away, Liverpool home and Man U away. I have looked! And then Fulham.” – David Button
Brighton may also be without Alireza Jahanbakhsh (£6.7m) for the Asian Cup as he was named in the initial 35-man squad for Iran. Whether he makes the final squad will be announced on Christmas Eve, although he was not included in the 21-man group travelling to Qatar for a training camp.
That is because Jahanbakhsh is still carrying a hamstring injury, and suffered a setback in his recovery earlier this month.
Because of his absence from the side for the last six Premier League matches, Jahanbakhsh travelling to the United Arab Emirates would have little impact on Brighton’s squad.
If nothing else, it just means a continuation of little in the way of competition in wide areas for Anthony Knockaert (£5.4m) and Solly March (£5.0m) over Christmas and the new year.
José Izquierdo (£5.9m) may eventually come back into the fray but he is still injured, so, for now, Jurgen Locadia (£5.3m) looks like the main competition, having played on the left against Bournemouth. Perhaps the only other alternative is Markus Suttner (£3.8m), a defender on FPL, who was used as a left-winger several times during pre-season but has not been involved once in the Premier League in 2018/19.
Newcastle United (2 players)
Ki Sung-yeung (£4.7m) will be the biggest miss for Newcastle over the Christmas period. Following the injury to Jonjo Shelvey (£5.3m) earlier in the campaign, the South Korean international has become a key member of the Magpies’ midfield and has been hugely influential in their turn around of form.
“Yeah, I’ll go away for the Asian Cup. Of course, I feel a little sorry for the team as they’re in the middle of the season, but at least we’re in good shape.” – Ki Sung-yeung
Ki’s final match for Newcastle before travelling for the international tournament was the Gameweek 18 visit of Fulham to St James’ Park. Rafael Benitez attempted to negotiate a later date for Ki the join up with the South Korea squad but ultimately failed, Paulo Bento wanting him for the training camp which starts on Boxing Day.
“Ki will go December 26 and we don’t know when he will come back. I was trying (to get Ki to stay for longer), but they couldn’t change.” – Rafael Benitez
With numbers short in central midfield right now, Benitez will have to hope that Shelvey comes through and is declared fit for Boxing Day. Sean Longstaff (£4.5m) looks to be the alternative, otherwise.
Meanwhile, Newcastle will also lose striker Yoshinori Muto (£5.6m) as he has been drafted into the Japan squad to cover the injured
However, he leaves the fold at a much later date, on January 3, so will available for Gameweeks 19 (Liverpool) and 20 (Watford), as well as the Manchester United meeting in Gameweek 21, before departing.
Furthermore, his absence will be less of a concern for Benitez who has Salomón Rondón (£5.9m) in form, Ayoze Pérez (£6.1m) around too, as well as Joselu (£4.8m).
“I had a conversation with (Muto) and he was waiting. He told me that the Premier League was really important for him and he wants to do well. He wants to settle down. Sometimes we don’t realise how hard it can be to bring in overseas players. We have had players here that after two years they weren’t talking in English. So players need time. He is trying to learn his trade and making sure he is integrated into the group. He is doing well but it is better that he is around in January.” – Rafael Benitez
Tottenham Hotspur (1 player)
It has been well documented that Son Heung-min (£8.5m) is leaving for the Asian Cup much later than many of the other players selected by their countries.
Spurs managed to negotiate that he would not leave until after the Gameweek 22 meeting with Manchester United on January 13, after they released him to play in the Asian Games over the summer. That means he will be available for Spurs for every Premier League match before then, as well as the FA Cup third round trip to Tranmere Rovers on January 4.
Son will, therefore, miss the first two games of the continental tournament in the U.A.E., linking up with South Korea for their third and final group stage game.
He is likely to go deep into the tournament, with South Korea one of the favourites to win the trophy, which will free up some Spurs options in the second half of January and early February.
Christian Eriksen (£9.3m) and Dele Alli (£8.9m) will both have less competition for their places in the side while Erik Lamela (£6.2m) and Lucas Moura (£7.0m) should also see more game-time while Son is away.
Huddersfield Town (1 player)
Huddersfield’s only Asian Cup player is Aaron Mooy (£5.1m), who will be representing Australia.
He is set to join up with the Socceroos on Boxing Day, but it is an absence that has little effect on Huddersfield, at least for now.
Mooy has been nursing a knee injury sustained earlier this month and received less than positive news about his return.
Early February was the most recent estimate, which might mean his involvement in the Asian Cup is fairly minimal.
However, he is keen to join up with the squad in the hope of regaining his fitness in time to play some minutes with Australia.
“He wants to go to the Asian Cup and he wanted the second opinion. He believes he’ll be ready and so do we. I expect Aaron to be there.” – Graham Arnold, Australia manager
Southampton (1 player)
Southampton will be without defender Maya Yoshida (£4.1m) in January as he goes to the United Arab Emirates with Japan.
The Samurai Blue’s first match of the tournament takes place on January 9, which means the Saints centre-back will definitely be absent from the Gameweek 22 trip to Leicester.
However, it is possible that he may be involved in a pre-tournament training camp although we don’t know at this stage.
We might find out more information from Saints boss Ralph Hasenhüttl in his next press conference.
Yoshida’s absence, however long it lasts for, opens the door for one of either Jack Stephens (£4.3m) or Wesley Hoedt (£4.3m) to come into the side.
Jannik Vestergaard (£4.6m) and Jan Bednarek (£3.9m) appear to have secured their places in Hasenhüttl’s back-three, while Stephens was the one who came on for Yan Valery (£4.0m) at Huddersfield on Saturday.
Cardiff City (1 player)
Neil Etheridge‘s (£4.5m) involvement in the Asian Cup looks set to have little impact on Cardiff City.
The goalkeeper is only going to play the Philippines opening game of the tournament, against South Korea on January 7.
That means the only match he is expected to miss is the FA Cup third round tie with Gillingham on January 5, when he probably would have been rested anyway.
That sits between the Gameweek 21 visit of Spurs to the Cardiff City Stadium on January 1 and a January 12 meeting with Huddersfield in Gameweek 22 – so Etheridge is likely to be involved in both of those.
“We know the importance of Neil with Cardiff City. So, he will play for the Azkals in the first game of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 and then go back to play with Cardiff.” – Mariano Araneta, Philippine Football Federation president
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