Rafa Benitez braced for January exodus at Newcastle – to the African Cup of Nations

Achraf Lazaar
Achraf Lazaar

Rafa Benitez is planning for the departure of four Newcastle United players next month.

Cheick Tiote, Christian Atsu, Mo Diame and Achraf Lazaar are all expected to be called up by their countries for the next year's African Cup of Nations.

Ivory Coast (Tiote), Ghana (Atsu), Senegal (Diame) and Morocco (Lazaar) have all qualified for the tournament, which is being staged in Gabon between January 14 and February 5.

Newcastle will have to release those those players selected in advance of the competition.

United manager Benitez – whose side will play six league league fixtures and at least one FA Cup tie in that period – is already working on a strategy ahead of their departures.

"We have to keep it in our heads that we will lose maybe four players for the African Cup of Nations," said Benitez.

Newcastle could also be without Jonjo Shelvey in that period.

The influential midfielder has been charged with misconduct by the Football Association.

Shelvey is alleged to have used racially-aggravated language towards Romain Saiss in United's 2-0 home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in September.

The 24-year-old has denied the charge and will go before an independent commission next week.

If Shelvey is found guilty, he will be banned for five or more games.