Chelsea handed boost as Hakim Ziyech is left OUT of Afcon squad by Morocco amid blazing row with manager

CHELSEA have been given a much-needed boost after Hakim Ziyech was left out of the Morocco squad for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations amid his blazing row with the national team boss.

The Blues forward has NOT been named in Vahid Halilhodzic's squad for next month's tournament in Cameroon.

The news will ease the pressure on Thomas Tuchel's threadbare squad ahead of a jam-packed schedule in early 2022.

Chelsea must play at least SIX matches in January – including games against fellow title-chasers Liverpool and Manchester City, as well as London rivals Tottenham.

The Blues will also face Spurs twice more in their two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final, before embarking on the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates in February.

And having an extra player to ease their Covid and injury-ravaged squad could prove crucial.

Ziyech's exclusion from the Morocco squad is not a major surprise.

The winger, 28,has missed all six of his nation's World Cup qualifiers this season and hasn't played for his country since June.

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He has scored three times in 18 games across all competitions for his club this season.

In the summer, Halilhodzic, 69, alleged the player had reported late for previous international duty, refused to play and set a bad example for younger players.

Ziyech, who has 35 caps and 16 goals for Morocco, hit out on Instagram, writing, "Next time when you speak, SPEAK THE TRUTH THEN…!!!", accompanied by a clown emoji.

Halilhodzic had earlier raged: "Ziyech's behaviour in the last two matches, was not that of a national team player.

"As a leader of the team, he has to be a positive role model… he arrived late, and then even refused to work.

"For me the national team comes above everything. Nobody can hold it hostage.

"For the first time in my career I have seen behaviour that disappoints me.

"A player who refuses to play a game, admittedly a friendly, on the pretext that he is injured.

"The medical staff made several examinations, and said he was fit to play.

"He then refused to warm up in the second-half, because he was disappointed to be a substitute.

"For me that type of behaviour is unacceptable. You can't cheat with the national team."

Ziyech's former Ajax team-mate Noussair Mazraoui is also out of the Morocco squad amid claims he too has fallen out with Halilhodzic.

Only three Premier League players have been named in the group for Afcon.

Wolves ace Romain Saiss and Watford pair Adam Masina and Imran Louza will fly the flag for the English top-flight in Cameroon.

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