Chelsea coach, Rafa Benitez, has delayed Mikel Obi and Victor Moses from joining the Super Eagles at their Faro training camp in Portugal. He plans to keep the duo for their cup ties against Southampton and Swansea before releasing them for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Mikel and Moses, integral players since Benitez took control at Stamford Bridge, are in the Nigeria squad which was due to report for a pre-tournament training camp in Portugal on Thursday.
The Chelsea pair have been granted permission to stay in London until after the New Year but Benitez is negotiating to keep them for as long as possible as his team become embroiled in a cluttered fixture list.
The Blues launch their defence of the FA Cup at Southampton on January 5, four days before the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final at home to Swansea.
Benitez accepts he is unlikely to have them around by the time they play Stoke in the Barclays Premier League on January 12.
â€œThe tournament starts on the 19th, so they will go one or two weeks before,â€ Benitez said.
â€œMaybe we can manage to keep them a little bit longer. We will talk with them. They know sometimes the players do not need to go early. But at least one week before the 19th, they have to be there.â€
Nigeriaâ€™s first game of the tournament in South Africa is on Janaury 21 against Burkina Faso. The final is on February 10, four days before Chelsea are due to play in Prague in the Europa League.