4 Premier League Players Who'll Be Missed During the African Cup of Nations
It is the time that managers of Premier League teams dread, when some of their top talent will miss key games due to the awkwardly timed African Cup of Nations tournament taking place between late January and early February.
English-based players have already left for Africa to practice with their international teammates and won't be back until their team is out of the tournament. This weekend sees the first league games that many of the African players will miss.
Although fewer players are departing for Africa from the Premier League than from other European leagues (such as France's Ligue 1), teams have still been affected in England by the competition. No doubt, it would be easier for them if the tournament were played in the summer.
Nonetheless, the tournament has been played at this time of year for a while now, and each manager has accounted for this.
Here are the top four players going back to Africa who'll be missed in the next few weeks.
Didier Drogba (Chelsea and Ivory Coast)
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One transfer story that has dominated the winter window so far is the destination of Didier Drogba, with clubs in China reportedly interested in his signature.
However, Andre Villas-Boas rightly wants his striker to stay, and it seems pretty unlikely that he will depart in the window.
The reason for this is that, despite being 33 years old and past his best years, he can still do a job at Chelsea. He provides a physical presence up front, causing problems for opposing center backs while also contributing on the score sheet occasionally.
Although Daniel Sturridge has been performing well and scoring goals since his return from Bolton at the end of last season, he can't be relied on solely. There is a need for Fernando Torres to step up and score goals now more than ever.
Chelsea have gone through a tricky Christmas period, and Drogba's departure won't make the next few games any easier.
Demba Ba (Newcastle and Senegal)
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Much of Newcastle's success this season is due to Senegalese striker Demba Ba, who joined from West Ham on a free transfer in the summer.
His 15 league goals so far is only bettered by Arsenal's Robin van Persie, and he has been a constant problem for opposing defenses. His physical strength and goalscoring ability causes problems for top defenders, as shown by his exceptional display against Manchester United.
He has scored over half of Newcastle's goals in the league, and players such as Leon Best and Shola Ameobi will have to step up and take on the goalscoring responsibilities.
Considering that neither of these players have scored a goal since September, this could prove to be a real problem. It will be difficult for Newcastle to hold on to their seventh-place ranking in the league without Ba's goals.
Yaya Toure (Manchester City and Ivory Coast)
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The effect of the Manchester City midfielder's temporary departure has already been felt, as his side has struggled in his absence.
Manager Roberto Mancini has already said that he is irreplaceable in his side, and his view has been supported by the poor performances of the side since Toure left for Africa.
The 28-year-old was exceptional in City's 3-0 against Liverpool in the league on January 3rd, and his absence was clearly felt when the two teams played each other again on Wednesday night. City appeared to lack strength in the midfield as they looked unorganised and uninspired, something that hasn't been said much about the side this season.
Toure will probably still be in Africa during City's crucial home tie to Tottenham, as well as the second leg of the Liverpool tie in the Carling Cup. City will have to step up in his absence to stay on top.
Cheick Tiote (Newcastle and Ivory Coast)
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Despite his relatively small size, Tiote has been a physical presence in the midfield and has been key in cutting out opposition attacks when playing in defensive midfield.
It is likely that his place in the team will be taken up by Danny Guthrie, who has played well when called upon despite suffering from a knee injury at the start of the season.
With Ba, Tiote is probably one of the best players at Newcastle, and they are certainly the team who is most affected by the timing of the tournament.