Top five Premier League stars set to go to the African Cup of Nations

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The African Cup of Nations always has the potential to throw a spanner in the works for various Premier League teams when it is held every two years.

The awkward timing of the competition, usually kicking off in January and finishing at the start of February, means some domestic clubs across Europe are left a little short of personnel when their stars fly off to Africa and compete for their international teams.

The 2017 edition is set to be hosted by Gabon, who previously joint hosted the tournament with Equatorial Guinea in 2012, and current holders Ivory Coast will go into it as heavy favourites to retain their title.

But what Premier League teams are set to be hit the hardest when January comes around?

We've had a look at all of the potential big names expected to be on the plane to Gabon next year and come up with the top five stars who will be missed the most.

5) Islam Slimani - Leicester City

The Premier League champions have endured a tricky start to the season domestically, however, the form of Slimani - particularly in the Champions League - has given Foxes' fans a welcome relief.

Leicester's club record signing has adapted to life in England quickly and four goals from nine appearances means he is the club's joint-top scorer at this stage of the campaign.

He is set to join up with Algeria and while Jamie Vardy continues to struggle matching last season's exploits, Slimani's absence could be difficult to overcome.

4) Yannick Bolasie - Everton

Another big summer signing that could be unavailable for as long as a month.

Bolasie hasn't taken long to strike up a devastating relationship with Romelu Lukaku and there's no doubt his likely international call-up will harm Everton's chances this season.

The pacy winger will be one of DR Congo's key men at the tournament and he will be hoping his club form can translate to the international stage.

3) Eric Bailly - Manchester United

Bailly has been the only Jose Mourinho summer signing to escape any criticism so far this season.

His physicality and willingness to stick a foot in made him an instant favourite at Old Trafford and his current absence through injury has already given Mourinho a headache or two.

But it is good preparation for the time Bailly will be away with the Ivory Coast and the Man United boss will need to have a firm plan in place to deal with his unavailability.

2) Sadio Mane - Liverpool

The second Liverpool player to make the list is Mane, who since signing from Southampton has made Klopp's side one of the most exciting to watch this season.

He is an ideal fit for his German manager's system and his six Premier League goals prove just how much he is thriving alongside Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana.

If, as expected, Mane starts 2017 playing for Senegal in Gabon, the depth of Klopp's squad will be surely put to the test.

1) Riyad Mahrez - Leicester City

Last season's standout player in the Premier League has struggled to replicate those dazzling performances this term but his importance to Claudio Ranieri cannot be understated.

The extra demands of the Champions League, as well as the lack of surprise factor he possessed last year, mean Mahrez has had to try and find new ways of having the same desired impact in matches.

The Foxes still heavily rely on his creativity and given how close they are to the relegation zone currently, Ranieri will be anxious to secure a bit of breathing space between now and January to avoid Mahrez's absence having truly disastrous consequences.

Leicester City
Yannick Bolasie
Premier League
Manchester United
Eric Bailly

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