The 2021/22 English Premier League season promises the tightest and most intriguing title race we’ve seen in a while with at least four teams in the mix.
They already occupy the Premier League’s top four spots after just six games played and are all separated by just one point.
With all four teams possessing incredible quality, the title race could come down to who blinks first which is where the 2021 edition of the African Cup of Nations comes in.
If you’re wondering how a month-long tournament for African national teams can determine what happens in English top-flight football, here is how:
AFCON 2021 had to be rescheduled and will take place in January 2022 in Cameroon because of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This AFCON is the first since the Confederation of African Football moved the tournament back to its original winter format since they played in the summer of 2019.
That means the African Cup of Nations will happen in the middle of the European season and the clubs will have to play without their African superstars for a while.
This could essentially prove to be the telling difference in a title race of tight margins, it could be decided by which top teams can cope with a weakened side.
Liverpool is set to be affected the most by this as both of their top scorers and most important players, Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane will both be representing Egypt and Senegal respectively.
Both Egypt and Senegal are top teams expected to make deep runs in the tournament which means they could be gone for the entire duration of the AFCON.
Mo Salah and Sadio Mane have either scored or assisted 10 of Liverpool’s 15 Premier League goals so far this season, there’s simply no way they can remain competitive without those two guys for a whole month.
They will also be without midfielder, Naby Keita who will be representing Guinea but they’re expected to crash out early which means he won’t be gone for long.
Chelsea will also be affected when Edouard Mendy and Hakim Ziyech leave to represent Senegal and Morocco respectively.
Mendy has become an integral part of the Chelsea team as the first choice goalkeeper since joining last summer and they will definitely miss the security he provides.
Hakim Ziyech on the other hand is a squad player right now and won’t be missed as much as Mendy for whom they lack adequate cover.
Manchester City’s only potential absentee is an important one as Riyad Mahrez will be away to help Algeria defend their AFCON crown.
Manchester United won’t be affected quite as much though as they will only be without Ivorian, Eric Bailly who’s not even a regular.
This could be a key turning point in the title race as Liverpool will be significantly weakened, opening an opportunity for their rivals to leave them behind.
At the end of the season, the title race may come down to what team loses the least amount of key players in January to the African Cup of Nations.
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