The two Nigerian stars have been called up for the continental showpiece in January and could be away for the best part of a month
Watford manager Claudio Ranieri has confirmed that Emmanuel Dennis and William Troost-Ekong will not depart for Nigeria until after the Hornet’s Premier League clash against Tottenham on New Year’s Day.
Super Eagles vice-captain Troost-Ekong and exciting winger Dennis were named in a 28-man shortlist to represent Nigeria at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. The biennial tournament, hosted by Cameroon, runs from January 9 to February 6.
All the invited players have been instructed to report to the Super Eagles camp when it opens in the last days of December.
But with the English Premier League running through the festive season and into the new year, the Nigerian stars in the world’s most glamorous league have been exempted from that rule.
Watford hosts West Ham at the Vicarage Road on Wednesday, December 28, before making the trip to face Tottenham on January 1.
With the Hornets hanging dangerously close to the relegation zone, manager Ranieri insists he needs the Afcon-bound four of Dennis, Troost-Ekong, Adam Masina, and Imrân Louza around to help navigate a difficult period of the campaign.
“They will stay with us until Tottenham [January 1], all four,” the former Leicester City manager told Watford’s official website.
“We have to play, and we are strong, we have to make a very good match and get points, that is our philosophy, and I will not change our philosophy.
“I don’t want excuses. I want to be in the Premier League at the end of the season; we have to fight.”
While Troost-Ekong has been error-prone in defence in recent weeks, Dennis has been the Hornets’ most productive forward with seven goals and five assists.