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When will Salah, Mahrez, Mane and the rest of AFCON Premier League players return?

Planet Sport provides all the permutations for supporters of top-flight clubs desperate to call on the services of their Africa Cup of Nations stars.

We're now almost two weeks into the Africa Cup of Nations, and with the round of 16 fixtures now all set, the tournament is well and truly taking shape.

The 16 spots available in the second round have now been filled, yet there was surprisingly no space for either Ghana or Algeria.

Having just reached the halfway point of the competition, the question now on many English top-flight fans' lips is just how soon will we get our players back?

With exactly half of the tournament's 24 sides having at least one Premier League player in their squad, Planet Sport provides every answer to that burning question.


Finished fourth in Group E with just one point from their three games. They had a chance to progress to the knockouts if they won their final game against Ivory Coast, but a 3-1 scoreline sent the defending champions crashing out.

Having not qualified, it's good news for Manchester City and West Ham fans, who will be seeing Riyad Mahrez and Said Benrahma a lot sooner than they perhaps anticipated.

The duo could theoretically fly back in time to play some part in their respective clubs' fixtures on Saturday, January 22, with City travelling to Southampton and the Hammers visiting Manchester United.

Burkina Faso

Safely through to the knockout stages as Group A runners-up. Will take on Gabon in the round of 16 on Sunday, January 23.

Aston Villa's Bertrand Traore is the only Premier League representative in the Burkinabe squad, but even if they are eliminated against Gabon, the earliest Steven Gerrard could count upon him for selection would not be until February 9, when Villa host Leeds United.


Qualified for the last 16 as Group D runners-up and will take on Ivory Coast on Wednesday, January 26.

Egypt captain Mo Salah needs no introduction and the Pharaohs could progress as far as the semi-finals before it becomes impossible for him to return in time for the Reds' FA Cup clash with Cardiff on Sunday, February 6.

Meanwhile, even if Egypt go all the way, Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny will still be back in time for a trip to Wolves on February 10 and Aston Villa's Trezeguet will be available for selection a day earlier, at home to Leeds United.


Qualified for the round of 16 with a second-placed finish in Group C and will face Burkina Faso for a spot in the quarter-finals, with that tie taking place on Sunday, January 23.

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Brighton youngster Ulrick Eneme-Ella are the Premier League's two representatives in the Gabon camp.

Much like Egypt and Elneny, Gabon's progression means Aubameyang will not be available for the Gunners before their league visit to Wolves on February 10, but the situation is slightly different for Eneme-Ella. If Patrice Neveu's side are knocked out, at the latest, by the quarter-finals, he could still return in time for his club's FA Cup trip to Tottenham on February 5.


Already eliminated after finishing bottom of Group C with just one point. It may not be a good time to be Ghanaian, but there is better news for Arsenal, Crystal Palace, and Leicester fans, with that trio of clubs all potentially seeing their representatives in the Black Stars squad on their way home earlier than planned.

Thomas Partey travelled back on Thursday and then later featured in Arsenal's League Cup semi-final second leg against Liverpool, coming on for the final 15 mintues before being sent off late into the game.

If he wasn't sent off, then he'd be available to start in their home game against Burnley on Sunday, January 23, but his dismissal now means he'll be suspended for that upcoming match.

Palace, meanwhile, could also see Jordan Ayew back in action as they host Liverpool, while Leicester will hope that Daniel Amartey might be able to participate in their home clash with Brighton, also on Sunday.


Qualified as Group B runners-up, ahead of Malawi on head-to-head record, and will take on Gambia on Monday, January 24.

That means Liverpool will not see Naby Keita for a little longer, with the earliest the midfielder could now return being the Reds' FA Cup tie at home to Cardiff on February 6. If Kaba Diawara's side were to go even deeper into the tournament and make it to the semi-finals, it is more likely that Keita would not return until a home tie against Leicester on February 10.

Ivory Coast

Another team to have secured safe passage to the knockout stages. Finished top of the tree in Group E after beating Algeria, meaning they'll now face Egypt in the round of 16.

Five Premier League players occupy spots in the Ivorian squad, from five different Premier League clubs. Two of those play for clubs which have been eliminated from the FA Cup and, as such, however far the Elephants progress will not matter.

Burnley winger Maxwel Cornet has an earliest return date of February 8 for a home tie against Manchester United, while Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe will be back for a trip to Wolves on February 10.

However, the earliest club fixture for the other three depends on how far the Ivorians get. If they make it to the semi-finals, their players featuring in the FA Cup fourth round is unlikely, but if they are knocked out prior to that, then an earlier return is possible.

Starting with Wolves defender Willy Boly, he could play in the FA Cup at home to Norwich on February 5, but failing that, his first game back will also be that clash with Arsenal on February 10.

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha may feature when the Eagles host Hartlepool, also on February 5, but that may be pushed back to February 9, when they travel to Norwich.

Finally, Manchester United defender Eric Bailly could be looking at a home clash with Middlesbrough on February 4, but if not, then he will return at the same time as Cornet, on February 8.


The winners of Group F, Mali are set to face Equatorial Guinea in the round of 16, taking place on Wednesday, January 26.

The pair of Premier League players in the Mali squad are Brighton's Yves Bissouma and Southampton's Moussa Djenepo. Both sides are still in contention for the FA Cup and should Mali be eliminated before the semi-finals, both could be back to play in their clubs' respective fourth-round ties.

Bissouma may return in time for the Seagulls' trip to Tottenham on February 5, but failing that, would be looking at their visit to Watford on February 12.

Meanwhile, Southampton host Coventry on February 5, but if Djenepo doesn't make that, his next earliest option would be an away league game at Tottenham on February 9.


Winners of Group C and also through to the last 16, where they will play Malawi on January 25. That means that Watford pair Adam Masina and Imran Louza, plus captain and Wolves centre-back Romain Saiss, will definitely not be returning in time for this weekend's club fixtures.

Instead, the earliest that Masina and Louza could return for now is a visit to West Ham on February 8, though that may be tight if the Atlas Lions reach the final. Should they do so, a home tie with Brighton on February 12 looks a more realistic option.

Meanwhile, Saiss may be back for his side's hosting of Norwich in the FA Cup on February 5, but only if Morocco are eliminated by the quarter-finals, at the latest. If they progress further than that, he is more likely to return for the league visit of Arsenal on February 10.


Winners of Group D with three victories from three, and thus through to the knockout stages with minimal fuss. Will play Tunisia on January 23.

There are four Nigerians who ply their trade in the Premier League. Two of them - Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho - play for Leicester City, while the quartet is completed by Watford's William Troost-Ekong and Everton's Alex Iwobi.

Like so many others, Ndidi and Iheanacho's first fixture back depends on the Super Eagles' progress; if they make it beyond the quarter-finals, their return for Leicester's FA Cup visit to neighbours Nottingham Forest on February 6 looks unlikely, and instead they will probably be looking at the trip to Liverpool on February 10.
Watford are out of the FA Cup, meaning Troost-Ekong's return is only really affected if Nigeria reach the final. If they do, his first game back will likely be a home fixture with Brighton on February 12, though if they are eliminated before that, he could return for the short trip to West Ham four days earlier.
A combination of the two situations applies to Iwobi, with his return fixture any of three possible ones. In straightforward terms, if Nigeria are knocked out before the semi-finals, he should be back for an FA Cup game with Brentford on February 5. If they reach the semi-finals, but not the final, it could be a trip to Newcastle on February 8. Finally, if the Super Eagles do make it to the final, his return will be delayed again and will likely end up being the home game against Leeds on February 12.


Despite emerging victorious in just one of their three group stage matches, they still managed to win Group B, and will face Cape Verde in the last 16 on January 25.

Five members of the Senegal party are Premier League players, with Leicester's Nampalys Mendy, Cheikhou Kouyate of Crystal Palace, Liverpool's Sadio Mane, Chelsea's Edouard Mendy and Ismaila Sarr of Watford all at the tournament. Take a deep breath for this one.

Firstly, if Senegal fail to make it beyond the quarter-finals, Nampalys Mendy will be back for the Foxes for their FA Cup trip to Nottingham Forest on February 6, though if they do go on a run, his return will probably be the visit to Liverpool four days later. The same is true of Mane, with the one difference being that Liverpool host Cardiff City in the FA Cup on February 6 before the Leicester game.
Kouyate is similar, with pre-semi-final elimination for Senegal meaning he should be back for Palace's hosting of Hartlepool on February 5. A deeper international run makes either of the Eagles' trips to Norwich, on February 9, or Brentford, on February 12, more likely.
In identical circumstances to Nigeria's Troost-Ekong, the return of Sarr is only really affected if Senegal reach the final. If they do, his first game back will likely be a home clash with Brighton on February 12, though if they are eliminated before that, he could return for the short trip to West Ham four days earlier.
Finally, Edouard Mendy has the unique situation of his first club game back possibly not being in England. If Senegal go out before the semi-finals, he should be back for the FA Cup visit of Plymouth on February 5, but if they make it further, his return could in fact be in Abu Dhabi, in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup on February 9.


Finished third in Group F after failing to beat Gambia in the final match of the group stages, but still progressed to the last 16 where they face Nigeria on Sunday, January 23.

There are only two Premier League players in the Tunisian squad, though both are youngsters and have a combined age of just 38. Arsenal's Omar Rekik and Manchester United's Hannibal Mejbri are the players in question.

If either are needed by Mikel Arteta or Ralf Rangnick, respectively, then they'll have to wait until next month. Having made it to the last 16, Rekik will not be back until the Gunners' visit to Wolves on February 10, while Mejbri will be looking at United's FA Cup hosting of Middlesbrough on February 4 as an earliest return date.

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