Why Newcastle's form could take a turn for the worst in the new year

Newcastle United face losing up to four players to the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

Newcastle have been in magnificent form since mid-October, emerging from a winless stretch under Alan Pardew to claim four victories on the bounce.

Nonetheless, with four in-form players set to leave for a month-long period in January for the African Cup of Nations, the club could be left considerably weaker than expected. 

Weekend debutant Mehdi Abeid has recently won a maiden call-up to the Algeria squad. He made his first league start for the Magpies on Saturday, impressing in his side's 1-0 victory over Liverpool.

The 22-year-old looks set to play his part for his nation with the Desert Foxes having already guaranteed their place at the finals.

Meanwhile, Senegal striker Papiss Cisse and Ivory Coast midfielder Cheick Tiote are already established internationals, and they too will be involved, should their respective countries qualify. The former is the club's top scorer this season with four goals, while the latter has entrenched himself as an indispensable asset since his arrival in 2010.

22-year-old Sammy Ameobi has reiterated his desire to play for Nigeria. The winger is hoping to represent his nation alongside his brother and former Newcastle striker Shola, who featured at the summer World Cup in Brazil.

He too, has impressed in recent weeks. First he scored in Newcastle's 2-1 victory over Tottenham and just a matter of days later he played his part in the club's unlikely Capital One cup victory against Manchester City at the Etihad.

Fans will understandably be concerned as the club prepare for life without four key players. With the club set for a tricky selection of fixtures - Burnley (H), Chelsea (A), Southampton (H) and Hull (A) - Pardew will be hoping those remaining can step up to the challenge. 

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