No Call For Djilobodji?
The Senegal Football Federation have announced a round of warm-up fixtures for the Africa Cup of Nations to commence the week before the competition starts. Senegal will take on Libya on the 8th of January, then travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo for a friendly the following week before the tournament commences a few days later.
Notably, centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli had been looking as if he would be forced to miss the tournament - and preparations for it - through injury which would have heightened the prospect of Sunderland's Papy Djilibodji receiving a call-up to replace him. However, news has surfaced which suggests Koulibaly, who is being linked with a £50m move to Chelsea, will now make the African competition which kicks off in three weeks' time.
But - more than that - it appears there is no place for Sunderland defender, Papy Djilobodji, in the squad for the upcoming friendlies. The 27-year old had been suggested as a late inclusion to the Senegal side thanks to his fine form in the Premier League. However, clubs with players to be called were notified earlier this week of the Senegal federation's request to release those affected, and Djilobodji's name was not on that list.
The news will be most welcome for David Moyes. The Sunderland boss is already faced with the loss of Lamine Kone to the Ivory Coast squad for the tournament and should Djilobodji be called up, some major restructuring of the Black Cats' back line would be required.
The former Chelsea and Nantes man has been a stand-out performer in recent weeks and was a strong contender for man-of-the-match in Saturday's victory against Watford. He is part of a group of Senegalese players who have been continually excluded from coach Aliou Cisse's plans; and if he ain't lined up for the friendlies - he ain't going to ACON2017 - to put it bluntly.
You can update yourself on the games that Sunderland players are likely to miss due to the Africa Cup of Nations 2017 here.
Khazri Makes The List Though
Sunderland midfielder, Wahbi Khazri, has been named in a 40-man initial squad for Tunisia at the Africa Cup of Nations though. No surprise there - barring injury, the former Bordeaux man, is a certainty to be at the tournament.
And if Khazri hasn't been part of David Moyes starting-eleven plans for much of the season, the timing of when he will depart for the Cup of Nations remains unclear. Tunisia are grouping on Sunday for a week-long training camp at which Khazri will not be present - retained by David Moyes for the festive-period domestic matches.
Then the 40-man Tunisian squad will be reduced to a final 23 for friendlies against Uganda on 4th January and Egypt on the 8th before the tournament commences. As a result, Khazri will likely be missing from the Sunderland squad from the FA Cup tie against Burnley onwards and will miss several weeks thereafter due to ACON2017.
German Media Still Discussing Jan Kirchhoff
As we reported the other day, Bundesliga club, Hamburger SV, are said to have been monitoring Sunderland's Jan Kirchhoff for some weeks.
The Hamburg club currently occupy one of the relegation places in the German top division and are desperate for reinforcements in January with a central defender and defensive midfielder topping their shopping list.
Kirchhoff picked up his third serious injury of the season in the home defeat against Chelsea last week. The 26-year-old tore his lateral meniscus (a strip of cartilage in the knee) and no news has since been forthcoming of how long he may be side-lined with David Moyes saying after the game that Kirchhoff was due to see a specialist in order to assess the severity of his injury.
But, the news has not dampened speculation linking the defender-cum-midfielder with a return home to Germany. If the knee injury is of a simple variety, Kirchhoff may be back in training in two or three weeks' time, so media in his homeland have continued to link him with Hamburg. The Sunderland player is said to be one of the targets on Markus Gisdol's five-man hit-list.
Expect the rumours to hinge entirely on Moyes' next Kirchhoff injury update - they'll either reach fever pitch or die a death dependent on the player's likely lay-off.