The delayed 2021 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is only a fortnight or so away but the full ramifications for Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers are still a bit unclear, even at this late stage.
We know when the tournament proper takes place but how many Gameweeks our FPL assets will miss is still unclear, with clubs battling to delay the departure of their players until the last possible minute.
The tournament squads are still being finalised at the time of writing but with Gameweek 19 fast approaching, we’ll round up what we know so far.
WHEN DOES AFCON 2021 TAKE PLACE?
The tournament proper runs from Sunday 9 January to Sunday 6 February and will be staged in Cameroon.
With 16 nations progressing from the 24-team group stage, the chances of getting some of the big FPL names back early aren’t great; the likes of Egypt, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Algeria are among the tournament favourites and will expect to go deep into the knockout rounds.
|Group stage||Jan 9-20|
|Round of 16||Jan 23-26|
|Third place play-off/Final||Feb 6|
HOW MANY GAMEWEEKS WILL FPL PLAYERS MISS DUE TO THEIR INVOLEMENT AT AFCON?
On paper, the damage doesn’t look too bad. Thanks to a combination of the FA Cup and a wider January international break, only two Gameweeks are affected while AFCON is on: Gameweeks 22 and 23.
However, with the competing countries requiring and allowed pre-tournament prep time with their players, other Gameweeks could be affected before that.
According to FIFA rules…
“Players must be released and start the travel to their representative team no later than Monday morning the week preceding the week when the relevant final competition starts and must be released by the association in the morning of the day after the last match of their team in the tournament.”
With the tournament kicking off on Sunday 9 January, that theoretically would mean that players involved in AFCON will be required to leave their clubs on Monday 27 December.
Gameweeks 20 and 21 could also be affected, then, and possibly even the Newcastle United v Manchester United match in Gameweek 19.
And anyone involved in the final or third-place play-off on Sunday 6 February would surely be doubtful for Gameweek 24, which takes place on Tuesday-Wednesday 8-9 February.
Even at this late stage, there is still some uncertainty over when star names will depart.
Rob Harris reported on Thursday evening that the World Leagues Forum, of which the Premier League is a member, had written to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) saying that their clubs wouldn’t release players for AFCON until January 3.
There had been earlier reports that Mohamed Salah (£13.1m) has been given permission to face Chelsea in Gameweek 21 before leaving for Africa.
For others, a departure after Gameweek 20 seems likely.
|Gameweek 19||Dec 26-27|
|Gameweek 20||Dec 28-30|
|Gameweek 21||Jan 1-3|
|Gameweek 22||Jan 14-16|
|Gameweek 23||Jan 21-23|
|Gameweek 24||Feb 8-9|
PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYERS AND TEAMS AFFECTED BY AFCON 2021
Over 30 players from 16 clubs could be representing their respective nations at AFCON in January.
Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Watford look set to be the worst hit, with four or more players on international duty.
Leeds United, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur are the four teams that won’t be affected by the tournament in Cameroon.
There are some big names in the below list, the most notable of which is Mohamed Salah (£13.1m).
The 71%-owned leading points-scorer in FPL is one of three Liverpool players who are set to be missing in January and possibly the beginning of February, with Sadio Mane (£11.9m) and Naby Keita (£5.0m) set to turn out for Senegal and Guinea respectively.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£9.6m), Maxwel Cornet (£5.9m), Edouard Mendy (£6.2m), Riyad Mahrez (£8.6m), and Said Benrahma (£5.9m) are also stand-out names in the table we’ve put together below:
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