Sean Dyche pondering best use of Maxwel Cornet ahead of AFCON departure

Top-scorer Maxwel Cornet will link up with Ivory Coast for the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon after Sunday’s trip to Elland Road to face Leeds United.

Maxwel Cornet
Maxwel Cornet

Players were initially due to report for duty after Boxing Day’s round of fixtures, but European clubs have been permitted to to delay the release of players until the week the tournament begins on January 9th, after a request was accepted by the Confederation of African Football.

That means Cornet – again rated “touch and go” for Thursday night’s game at Manchester United, could feature if fit against Leeds on Sunday.

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Cornet, who missed Burnley’s last game against West Ham almost three weeks ago with a thigh problem, could now miss a maximum of five games – the FA Cup third round tie at home to Huddersfield Town, and any potential fourth round game if the Clarets advance, and three league games, against Leicester (January 15th) and Manchester United (February 8th) at home, and Arsenal (January 22nd) away.

Dyche was in an awkward position as to whether to use the former Lyon man, given his lack of game time of late: “We’ve got to be careful because I have always said, although he’s a really fit guy and has done great for us, the point is he was just getting to what I class as true match fitness when he had an awkward injury. It’s nothing too drastic, but it’s kept him out.

“This is on top of a Covid case, which to be fair to him, like a lot of cases, had minimal effect on the body.

“But the protocols are in place, and you can’t train those players until they’re out of that period, so that’s elongated that period.

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“He is on the grass and he is working with the sports scientists and physios, he’s feeling good, but we still have to make a judgment call.

“Historically I like players to be fit and ready to play, so that will be the challenge.”

And if Cornet sits out Thursday night’s game to give him more time to be fit to face Leeds, there are no guarantees that game will go ahead, with the Yorkshire club having their games against Liverpool and Aston Villa postponed due to Covid.

Dyche added: “That is the job. You get information from the player, first and foremost, and then the medical team and support staff, and eventually you have to make a judgement call on these players and where they are in their fitness.

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“With the Covid protocols, the challenge now is if you have the framework where you call games on or off, if you have someone who has been off for seven days and not trained, then that can’t equally be player welfare.

“If you’re talking about player welfare and the careful, diligent way to go through Covid cases, then bizarrely that player could be required after the end of the seven days, even though they haven’t trained.

“Hopefully that could be more deeply looked at, and those who have no symptoms at all can come into the training ground.

“Training grounds have big areas and we could then monitor their heart rate, distance covered, their diet, what their food intake is etc, etc.

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“At least then after day seven, they would be some way up to speed.

“I don’t know what they can do about that, but I do think that would be better for the big picture of games being called off, but it is a suggestion.”