PREMIER LEAGUE managers fear the Africa Cup of Nations will create a ‘nightmare’ in the New Year.
Top stars like Egypt’s Mo Salah are due to play at the tournament, which takes place from January 9 to February 6.
Strugglers Watford are set to be the top-flight club hardest hit with FIVE players set to go.
Senegal’s Ismaila Sarr, Morocco’s Imran Louza and Adam Masina, plus William Troost-Ekong and Emmanuel Dennis of Nigeria could all take part.
Hornets boss Ranieri said: “It is not only for Watford, but for the league it is a nightmare.
“All the teams are losing some players. That is not right, but we know that and have to be ready to try and find a solution.”
The tournament had been delayed by a year due to the pandemic.
Several African nations have requested players leave for national training camps BEFORE the New Year.
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Title-chasing Liverpool are likely to lose Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita, although Joel Matip has snubbed a call-up from hosts Cameroon.
The Reds have some important fixtures to play whilst some of their top stars are away.
Title challengers Chelsea welcome Liverpool to Stamford Bridge at the start of the new year, and the visitors will most likely be without their big-hitting frontmen.
Arsenal and Crystal Palace could lose four players each.
But there are still doubts that the Afcon will go ahead in Cameroon due to Covid concerns.
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