The 2019 Asian Cup will be taking place throughout January, an international tournament which threatens to take away some of Newcastle’s star performers.
In the past, Newcastle have often had to deal with African players leaving the team mid-season for the African Cup of Nations.
Much like ACON, The Asian Cup also takes place in January every four years.
These contests are often an annoyance to Premier League clubs, as star performers are always likely to choose their country over club commitments.
The Asian Cup is not something Newcastle have had to really worry about in the past.
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But acquisitions in the summer mean there are now key players in the squad likely to be unavailable in January.
The players Newcastle could lose to international commitments
Rafa Benitez will be concerned at the possibility of losing both Yoshinori Muto and Ki Sung-yueng to the tournament.
Muto plays his international football for Japan, while Ki plays his for South Korea.
The pair are likely to be chosen for their nation’s squads, who have both qualified for the competition.
Ki often serves as South Korea’s captain, and so will almost certainly be participating.
While Muto is less certain to be picked, he will fancy his chances as one of Japan’s few Premier League exports.
The Group stage matches will last until the third week of January. But both Japan and South Korea are expected to advance further through the knockout stages.
The final will be played on February 1st, meaning the duo could miss the entire month.
How will this affect Newcastle’s January games?
Unfortunately for the Toon, they have a very tough January spell.
They will play a run of games similar to that of the start of the season. A run which saw them go 10 games without winning.
It’s a terrible start to the year in which they play Manchester United, Chelsea, Cardiff, Manchester City and Spurs.
The Asian duo would miss these games plus Newcastle’s FA Cup third round match.
Ki in particular will be a huge miss. He has provided an antidote to Jonjo Shelvey’s long ball game, and helped Newcastle build from midfield in recent wins.
In games where other teams dominate, Newcastle will undoubtedly miss Ki’s ability to maintain possession when counter attacking.
And despite lack of game time, Muto has shown he can be a threat against top sides. His only goal of the season so far coming against Manchester United.
Jonjo Shelvey and Ayoze Perez will have big shoes to fill should the pair choose to leave the squad.