After a gritty 2-1 win away at Burton Albion, Newcastle United sealed their top of the table status for Christmas. Mo Diame, who is really beginning to come into his own, was a prime contributor to the three points as he netted his fifth of the season.
Africa Cup of Nations not an issue for Newcastle
When asked about his slow start with Newcastle, Diame stated that recently he had to “wake up” as in his opinion, he had been “sleeping” in the former part of the campaign.
Another spanner in the works comes at a time when the Magpies are rebuilding their confidence and form following two defeats. The dynamic midfielder will take part in the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. The thought of a large tournament fills fans with worry, especially for an in-form player like Diame.
However, the ex Hull City man offered his reassurance that before he leaves for Africa to play for his nation, he will do his utmost: “I want to contribute before I go away.”
There is not just the threat of losing Diame, who has scored three goals in his last four starts, to Senegal. As it is expected that Christian Atsu will be called up for Ghana while Achraf Lazaar is likely to be summonded to play for Morroco and Chancel Mbemba for DR Congo.
There is also a chance that Cheick Tiote could be called up to play for Ivory Coast, but he has not featured in Rafa Benitez's plans thus far.
Rotation will prevail
The Sengalese international is not worried as he said “we have a big squad – a quality squad – so I’m very confident with the team the manager can play when I have to leave.”
He added, “anyone can play. We know what we have to do. Every single player has to come in and give something to the team. It’s important we all do, but I want to contribute now”
Benitez is aware of the what the tournament means as the Spainard said, “we have to keep it in our heads that we will lose maybe four players for the African Cup of Nations.” However, the manager is known for his smart rotation tactics and during the period of the tournament, which runs from January 14 to Feburary 5, he has shown that he is capabable of replacing these players.
It is not favourable to lose players that have been performing well, but a combination depth of the squad and Mo Diame's declaration of hard work before should fill the Geordie nation at least some reassurance.