January 2024 will bring the start of two mid-season international tournaments, with Premier League managers having to contend with departures to the Africa Cup of Nations and Asian Cup.
The latter is set to be hosted in Qatar between 12 January and 10 February 2024, with some big-name Premier League players expected to feature.
Here are six Premier League stars set for the 2023 Asian Cup.
Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
Son Heung-min is the biggest name set to depart for Asian Cup duty in the new year, with the Tottenham captain spearheading South Korea’s challenge at the finals. South Korea have not been crowned continental champions since back-to-back successes in 1954 and 1960, but in Son possess Asian football’s most high-profile player.
Son has scored 41 goals in 116 caps and will captain the Taegeuk Warriors, who are under the management of ex-Spurs striker Jurgen Klinsmann. Also among South Korea’s options are Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Lee Kang-in and Bayern Munich central defender Kim min-Jae. Fourth favourites for the trophy, Klinsmann’s side has elite-level quality in key areas of the pitch.
16/17 – 14 goals
17/18 – 12 goals
18/19 – 12 goals
19/20 – 11 goals
20/21 – 17 goals
21/22 – 23 goals
22/23 – 10 goals
23/24 – 10 goals 🆕
🇰🇷 Son Heung-Min has scored 10+ Premier League goals for the eighth consecutive campaign! pic.twitter.com/fbnEzkEL1Q
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) December 10, 2023
Spurs manager Ange Postecoglou will need to find a plan to combat the loss of his leading scorer. Son has scored 10 goals in the Premier League this season, only Erling Haaland and Mohamed Salah have more. He could be set to miss clashes with Manchester United, Brentford, Everton and Brighton should South Korea go deep into the tournament.
Saman Ghoddos (Brentford)
Saman Ghoddos is set to represent Iran at the finals, as Amir Ghalenoei’s side look to win a record-equalling fourth Asian Cup title and first since the last of three consecutive crowns in 1976.
The 30-year-old was born in Malmo and earned two international caps in friendlies for Sweden in 2017, before deciding to change his international allegiance in favour of representing Iran, the nation of his parents. He has since won 40 caps for the national team.
Iran are the second-highest ranked Asian nation according to FIFA (21st), behind only Japan (17th).
Hwang Hee-chan (Wolves)
Hwang Hee-chan will form part of the South Korean forward line alongside the aforementioned Son Heung-min.
He has scored 16 goals for the national team since his debut in 2016, and netted a memorable winner against Portugal at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a goal which booked the Koreans a place in the knockout rounds.
Hwang’s exit will be a big blow to Wolves in the new year, with the 27-year-old having been in fine form this season. The forward has scored eight Premier League goals in 16 appearances this season, as many has he managed in the previous two seasons combined.
Wataru Endo (Liverpool)
Wataru Endo formed part of Liverpool’s midfield rebuild last summer, as the Reds swooped to bring in the experienced enforcer from Stuttgart.
Endo was named Japan captain in the summer and will lead the tournament favourites into the 2023 Asian Cup, having been part of the team that lost the 2019 final to Qatar.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 4, 2023
The 30-year-old has not quite set the world alight at Liverpool, but has had promising moments including a wonderful goal in the comeback win over Fulham earlier this month. He is one of two senior Liverpool players preparing to leave for international duty in the new year, with Mohamed Salah set to represent Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton)
Kaoru Mitoma will join Endo as part of a Japan team looking to win a first Asian Cup title since 2011.
Mitoma is one of several exciting attacking options for the Samurai Blue, alongside Lazio’s Daichi Kamada and Real Sociedad star Takefusa Kubo. Former Liverpool forward Takumi Minamino has also rediscovered his form at AS Monaco during the current campaign, with nine goal involvements in 12 Ligue 1 starts, adding to the attacking arsenal of the Japanese.
Mitoma has been one of the breakout stars of the Premier League across the last 12 months, and has recorded seven goals and assists in 16 league appearances for Brighton this season.
Japan boast more top-level talent than any other side in the tournament and topped a group containing Spain, Germany and Costa Rica at the World Cup last winter.
Hajime Moriyasu’s side are currently on an eight-game winning run, which includes statement victories over Germany (4-1) and Turkey (4-2). Favourites, for a reason.
— Premier League (@premierleague) October 20, 2023
Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan)
The third Premier League name set to represent Japan in the new year.
Takehiro Tomiyasu has bounced back from a frustrating time at Arsenal this season, proving to be a valuable member of Mikel Arteta’s title-chasing squad. Comfortable in any position across the backline, that versatility will be a miss for Arsenal when he departs for international duty.
In Ko Itakura, Hiroki Ito, Yukinari Sugawara and Tomiyasu, there’s real talent across Japan’s defensive options.