David Moyes is confident the Sunderland squad will be able to cope with losing key players to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
The tournament takes place in Gabon in January and February and selected players could be missing for several weeks – if their country makes it all the way to the final.
Sunderland have four players who could be involved; Ivorian centre-back Lamine Kone, Tunisian winger Wahbi Khazri and Gabonese central midfielder Didier Ndong are all expected to be called-up.
Centre-back Papy Djilobodji is another that could be away, but he hasn’t been selected by Senegal since early 2015.
Moyes admits the coaching staff are thinking about the possible ramifications all the time.
But with Seb Larsson and Jan Kirchhoff back training and Fabio Borini closing in on a return too, Moyes is confident his squad can cope.
Sunderland could also strengthen in the January window, although business is expected to be limited given the financial situation.
Jack Rodwell, out with a hamstring injury, should also be back training by the middle of December, to further boost Moyes’ options.
When asked about the Africa Cup of Nations, Moyes said: “Yes, we are thinking about it all the time.
“We have been preparing and thinking about ‘if they did get knocked out when would they be back or if they got through to the final when would they be back etc.’
“We are aware the Africa Cup of Nations is looming. Thankfully we are beginning to get the likes of Seb Larsson, Jan Kirchhoff and Fabio Borini back.
“I am hoping, by the time January comes around, we will certainly have Jack Rodwell back too.
“Hopefully, the players we are losing we can cover by players coming back from injury,” added Moyes.
Djilobodji is back from a one-game suspension ahead of today’s Leicester City game, with John O’Shea impressing alongside Lamine Kone at Liverpool.
Moyes said: “I will need to make a decision based on what I think will be best suited for this game.”