Premier League: Advantage Man City as title rivals prepare to lose key players

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Manchester City could have an advantage in the Premier League title race through January as its rivals face up to losing key players to the African Cup of Nations and Asia Cup.

As the Premier League emerges from a frantic set of festive fixtures with only six points separating the top five, managers will be busy drawing up contingency plans.

Some will likely deem it necessary to dip into the transfer market to make up for the loss of some top performers.

But while Liverpool will lose Egyptian Mohamed Salah and Tottenham Hotspur will have to make do without South Korea’s Son Heung-min, champions Manchester City will be unaffected.

City manager Pep Guardiola does not have a single player jetting off to either the Ivory Coast or Qatar for the continental tournaments that start on January 13 and January 12 respectively and run for almost a month.

Leaders Liverpool, which heads Aston Villa by three points after its win over Newcastle United on Monday, will wave goodbye to Salah, who with 14 goals is the joint-top scorer in the Premier League this season, equal with Erling Haaland.

They will also be missing combative midfielder Wataru Endo, who will join up with Japan.

“It’s a bit of a shame how he found his feet and now he goes to the Asian Cup,” manager Juergen Klopp said.

Surprise title challengers Villa will only lose squad player Bertrand Traore to Burkina Faso but fourth-placed Arsenal will be harder hit with Mohamed Elneny (Egypt), Thomas Partey (Ghana) and Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan) all heading off for an unspecified amount of time, depending on the progress of their nations.

Tottenham has been bedevilled by injuries in the last couple of months and now manager Ange Postecoglou will have to adapt to captain Son, who has scored 12 league goals, representing South Korea. Tottenham also lost midfielder Yves Bissouma to Mali while Pape Sarr, who was injured against Bournemouth on Sunday, is part of Senegal’s squad.

Resurgent West Ham United, who is in sixth place, will be hampered by the loss of key Ghanian midfielder Mohammed Kudus.

Manchester United’s under-pressure manager Erik Ten Hag could do without losing Andre Onana (Cameroon), Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco) and Amad Diallo (Ivory Coast) as he tries to turn around what has been a dreadful season so far.

At the other end of the table, Nottingham Forest is the worst hit as it prepares to make do without six players for the next few weeks including Ivory Coast trio Serge Aurier, Willy Boly and Ibrahim Sangare.

Struggling Brentford will be without midfielders Saman Ghoddos (Iran) and Frank Onyeka (Nigeria) along with striker Yoane Wissa (DR Congo).

The Premier League takes a breather this weekend with the FA Cup third round taking precedence while all clubs will have one of the two following weekends off in a mini winter break.

By that stage the group stages of the AFCON and Asia Cup will be virtually over, meaning some players may be heading back.



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