How Wolves will be affected by the African Cup of Nations?
(Photo by Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images)

Bruno Lage's reign at Wolves has got off to a positive start. The football on display has impressed the thousands who flock to Molineux and the Wanderers currently sit seventh in the Premier League.

But at the start of January, their early season hard work has the potential to be undone when two vital members of the squad could be unavailable for a month.

Willy Boly and Romain Saiss are due to travel to Cameroon for the 2021 African Cup of Nations to represent their countries.

The tournament begins on Thursday 6th January 2022, when the hosts Cameroon face Burkina Faso in Yaounde, with the final taking place just under a month later on the 6th February.

But how exactly will the loss of the two defenders and the AFCON affect Wolves?

Willy Boly

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The 30-year-old defender has been a member of the Ivory Coast national team since 2020, despite appearing for the French youth teams at under-16, under-17 and under-19 level.

With one goal in nine appearances for the Elephants, Boly played in the final four qualifying games and is likely to be called up to Patrice Beaumelle's squad after starting their two October victories over Malawi.

Ivory Coast fixtures:

12th January 20:00: Equatorial Guinea

16th January 17:00: Sierra Leone

20th January 17:00: Algeria

Romain Saiss

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The Moroccon defender is more experienced at national level compared to his defensive partner Boly, with 50 caps for his nation.

Saiss made his debut for his country in 2012 whilst at Clermont Foot 63 but was not called up again until March 2016. A further spell in and out of the squad, the 31-year-old has been a constant figure since the 2017 AFCON.

Unlike Boly, Saiss has remained fit in the opening 10 games of the season and has completed all but two games under Lage.

Morocco fixtures:

10th January 17:00: Ghana

14th January 17:00: Comoros

18th January 20:00: Gabon

How will it affect Wolves?

Depending on when both players will be required to begin their preparations for the tournament, the two defenders could miss some vital games.

With Max Kilman kicking off his season in style like a Rolls Royce alongside Conor Coady, Yerson Mosquera will be the only centre-back remaining at Compton during the tournament. 

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Unfortunately for Wolves, Mosquera remains sidelined after suffering a second hamstring injury in the Carabao Cup defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.

Lage has previously discussed the importance of competition inside his squad, and after failed summer moves for Lille's Sven Bottman and Marseille's Duje Caleta-Car, a move in January for another option may be on the club's priority list.

Wolves are not the only team who will be missing key players. If anything, Lage may be one of the managers with the least amount of players out during the competition.

With the AFCON kicking off early in January, here is a list of Wolves' opponents throughout the month and the players they could be without for the fixture:

Watford (H) - 26/12/21

Nicolas N'Koulou (Cameroon)

William Troost-Ekong (Nigeria)

Adam Masina (Morocco)

Imran Louza (Morocco)

Peter Etebo (Nigeria)

Ismaila Sarr (Senegal)

Emmanuel Dennis (Nigeria)

Man Utd (A) - 3/1/22

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Eric Bailly & Amad Diallo (Ivory Coast)

Southampton H- 15/1/22

Mohammed Salisa (Ghana)

Moussa Djenepo (Mali)

Brentford (A) - 22/1/22

Julian Jeanvier (Guinea)

Frank Onyeka (Nigeria)

Tarique Fosu (Ghana)

Arsenal (H) - 8/2/22

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Thomas Partey (Ghana)

Mohammed Elneny (Egypt)

Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast)

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)