After missing the opening few weeks of the season with a knee injury, Hakim Ziyech has made a brilliant start to life at Stamford Bridge following his summer move from Ajax.
Chelsea made their move to land the versatile attacker back in February, striking an agreement with the Dutch giants to sign Ziyech on a long-term contract.
After overcoming his initial injury troubles, Ziyech has been in fine form of late, scoring two goals and claiming three assists in his last seven appearances for the Blues in both the Premier League and the Champions League combined.
Chelsea’s last game – a 4-1 home triumph over bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United – demonstrated Ziyech’s qualities as he claimed two excellent assists to help Frank Lampard’s side maintain their recent run of good form.
After a few indifferent results in the early stages of the campaign, Lampard certainly appears to have got Chelsea heading in the right direction, with Ziyech playing a key role in their recent run of strong form.
However, the Chelsea boss has now been rocked by the news that he will most certainly be without his architect-in-chief for one month next season, after Morocco put themselves on the brink of qualifying for the African Cup of Nations in 2022.
The competition, which was last won by Algeria, was due to be staged next year, however, it has been forced to be pushed back a year due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
It means that the tournament in Cameroon will be staged over most of January and into February in 2022, with the dates still to be confirmed.
The timing of the tournament, as expected, has been met by groans by a cluster of Premier League managers, with some of their key players poised to miss a large portion of the season.
Lampard has already lost goalkeeper Edouard Mendy after Senegal sealed their passage to the finals on Sunday, defeating Guinea Bissau 1-0.
Now, Ziyech is poised to join Mendy in travelling to Cameroon for the tournament after Morocco put themselves on the brink of securing their route to the finals with a 2-0 win over Central African Republic on Tuesday evening, with the Chelsea ace bagging the game’s opening goal.
As well as scoring the opener, Ziyech also claimed an assist for Youssef En-Nesyri’s late strike.
Although there is more than a year to go until the tournament takes place, meaning Chelsea may have sourced a suitable back-up to help the team in Ziyech’s absence, he will be greatly missed, with his left-foot having proven to be a very useful tool in the Blues’ armoury in recent weeks.
Morocco have not secured their spot at AFCON 2022 just yet, but it would take a major swing in results in the final matches remaining in Group E for them to miss out.
The Atlas Lions lead their group with 10 points, six points ahead of and with a +11 goal difference on third-placed Burundi with two games remaining. The top two teams qualify for the tournament with Morocco champions in 2018.