Wahbi Khazri Retained By Sunderland And Will Miss AfCON build-up
The Tunisian national side will gather in Spain over Christmas to start their preparations for the Cup of Nations which begins on the 14th January.
The African nation's star midfielder, Wahbi Khazri, will be missing from the gathering - retained by Sunderland as David Moyes ensures he has his full squad together for as long as possible before the tournament in Gabon commences.
Khazri is one of just four Tunisian players who won't make the training camp because their clubs have refused it. The assembly begins on Christmas day and lasts for a week. Sunderland have rejected the approach of the Tunisian football federation to release the midfielder.
Tunisia will play two matches against local Spanish opposition during the Christian festive week.
Had the Sunderland midfielder attended the camp, he would have been missing from the squad for the Boxing Day trip to Old Trafford, the trip to Burnley on New Years' Eve and probably the home fixture against Liverpool three days later.
Following the week-long warm up session the Carthage Eagles then head to Tunis for a friendly with Uganda on January 4th and Cairo for a fixture against Egypt four days later. With the FA Cup third round scheduled for around this time, no doubt Khazri will be allowed to depart Wearside to take part in those games.
Now that Duncan Watmore has been ruled out for the season, a vacancy has presented itself in Sunderland's midfield - for an attacking body - and Wahbi Khazri is likely to be in the frame for a starting spot.
Moyes has a decision to make ahead of Saturday's trip to Swansea - does he alter the formation on which Sunderland have won three games in four, and shuffle the pack to do things a little differently - or does he draft in a direct replacement and retain his winning 4-3-3?
Khazri or Adnan Januzaj are the two most likely to perform Watmore's function but there's also a case to be built for the inclusion of the resurgent Sebastian Larsson, now fully fit after a lay-off through injury.
Regardless, whoever Moyes opts for on Saturday the games come thick and fast in December and into the festive period, so Khazri's chance will likely come.
On that note, exiled former Sunderland Echo reporter, Chris Young, who now writes a weekly column for the newspaper in his freelance capacity from California has strongly suggested Sunderland should consider selling Wahbi Khazri in the upcoming transfer window.
Perhaps Moyes' refusal to allow him to prepare with the rest of his international teammates hints at some longer-term thinking around Khazris' role in the Sunderland squad beyond January.
Bidding War For Coates
There's panic in Portugal as Sebastian Coates is continuing to attract interest from some seriously big clubs in Europe.
Coates is on loan at Sporting CP and has restored his reputation after a dismal time at Sunderland - he isn't the first, and won't be the last. But, if the Lisbon-based club are desperate to keep him come the end of his season-long loan deal, other outfits are monitoring the situation.
Portuguese newspaper, O Jogo, this morning claimed Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan are the two giants monitoring the central-defender who has particularly impressed in this season's Champions League.
With his performances in Portugal attracting headlines across Europe - Coates may find himself in demand and Sunderland are said to want around €5m to secure his signature. If he continues in the form he's in, we might yet rake in a few more pennies from a sale.
There has been some suggestion that other Premier League clubs have been alerted to his resurgent profile, but surely after a failed stint at Liverpool and Sunderland, the Uruguayan's days in English football are behind him. Coates is under contract at the Stadium of Light until 2019 having signed permanently last summer during Dick Advocaat's tenure.