After a deal was struck with the Confederation of African Football the Premier League stars who are set for international duty in the Africa Cup of Nations were able to take part in an extra two rounds of action before heading to Cameroon.
For West Ham this came as a huge relief with the Hammers able to use the in-form Said Benrahma against Watford and Crystal Palace. The Algerian made the most of his extra club games, scoring against the Hornets and providing a sublime assist for Michail Antonio’s opener versus Palace.
This capped a fine festive period for Benrahma who had also found the back of the net on Boxing Day. The attacker’s availability was fortunate for the Hammers with Pablo Fornals testing positive for COVID and in isolation for both the matches Benrahma was originally scheduled to miss.
Benrahma has now left the Hammers camp to join up with Algeria as they finalise their preparations for AFCON 2021 with the attacker set to miss a minimum of four West Ham matches. However, with Algeria joint favourites to retain their crown as African champions Benrahma could be away for as many as six games.
Algeria’s preparations for the tournament end on January 5 with a friendly against Ghana in Qatar before heading to Cameroon to kick-off their title defence in what should be a relatively simple Group E.
Their opening match of the tournament takes place on Tuesday, January 11 at 1pm UK time against Sierre Leone who have called-up former Tottenham, Liverpool and England defender Steven Caulker to their squad.
Next up for Benrahma and co. is a clash with Equatorial Guinea on Sunday, January 16 at 7pm before what on paper appears to be their toughest test in the final Group E match against Ivory Coast on Thursday, January 20 at 4pm.
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A surprise elimination at the group stages or defeat in the last-16 or quarter-finals would see Benrahma return to England by February 1 and available for a potential FA Cup 4th round tie in early February should the Hammers see off Leeds United in their third-round clash on Sunday.
However, if the Desert Foxes progress to the semi-final stages Benrahma will not be available until February 13 against Leicester City.
Unlike the European Championships, AFCON has a third-place play-off match meaning all four semi-finalists will be in action on February 6 and the players will not be available for club action on February 8.