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Nations. players will be held back; Pardew hopes to keep Ba and Tiote for longer.

Byline: LEE RYDER

ALAN PARDEW will attempt to delay Cheick Tiote and Demba Ba from heading to the African Cup of Nations.

The duo are expected to link up with Senegal and the Ivory Coast at the start of January. But Pardew will look to prevent their link-up until January 15.

The tournament takes place in Guinea and Gabon with the first matches taking place on January 21st - and players could me missing until mid-February when the tournament is completed.

The majority of participating teams want to hook up earlier in January with pre-tournament training camps on the agenda.

But this does not lie well with United or any of the rest of Premier League clubs who have crucial games in January.

Manchester City have halted Kolo and Yaya Toure's involvement in the tournament and now United wish to follow suit.

United manager Pardew said: "We will go along with that "It's important to keep players until January 15.

"The scheduling isn't great but we aren't going to moan, we knew about it."

Both Tiote and Ba will miss the Premier League games at Fulham and Blackburn Rovers in February.

However, they could also be out of the country for the home game with Aston Villa on February 5 and the trip to Tottenham Hotspur the next weekend, with the game at White Hart Lane clashing with the final of the competition at Stade d'Angondje in Libreville.

Yaya Toure had spoken of his involvement in the tournament and said: "There are two crucial months coming up and now I am going to miss one of them. The team, the club and the manager need me, but I will have to go away and play in a different competition. "It's difficult as I am very focused for City and we need all the players. I have to go because my country is going through some difficult things, but I am a little bit guilty and confused about it.

"My loyalties are divided and I do feel a little bit sad.

"But City will cope.

"We have fantastic players who can take my place, such as Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry, while Owen Hargreaves is also working very hard to come back."

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CRUCIAL MONTH Newcastle's Cheick Tiote and Demba Ba
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 20, 2011
Words:381
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