Senegal striker Diafra Sakho will not be able to represent the Teranga Lions at the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations competition in Gabon this January due to a persistent back injury that will not heal in time.

The 26-year-old will require eight weeks to recover from his back troubles, and with the tournament kicking off on January 14, the player will only return to fitness once the Nations Cup champions have been crowned.

The AFCON absence will be a bitter blow to 26-year-old Sakho, who missed the 2015 edition of the competition with a back injury.

The unfortunate news was communicated by West Ham United coach Slaven Bilic, who is disappointed to be without the big attacker’s services for at least the next two months.

‘We have a few knocks but are expecting everyone to be fit except for Diafra Sakho who will be out for six to eight weeks,’ Bilic said to the media.

‘He will miss the Africa Cup of Nations and it is a big blow for us,’ the manager admitted.

Sakho has played only 127 minutes of football so far this season, with the back injury and a thigh knock keeping him from giving his best contribution on the pitch.

He last featured in the 1-1 draw at Manchester United on November 27 in which he opened the scoring after 90 seconds before being substituted in the second half.

Sakho’s absence from the Senegal squad will be a disappointment for the Teranga Lions, but they are fortunate enough to be able to count on incredible depth in the squad, especially in attack where the likes of Sadio Mane, Mame Biram Diouf, Moussa Konate and Diao Baldé Keita combine to devastating effect.

In other injury news, Morocco’s Younes Belhanda will also miss the AFCON through injury, after the 26-year-old suffered a toe injury in a goalless stalemate with Bordeaux this week that will keep him out for six weeks. The loss of the talented attacking midfielder will be a big disappointment for Atlas Lions coach Hervé Renard.

This close to the tournament, even the slightest of injury knocks are competition threatening, with a three-week lay-up suffered in the next two weeks while recovering from injury enough to consider a player ruled out of the tournament, unless they are indispensable to their national team, in which case the coach may call them up in the hope that they recover and regain fitness in time to feature at some stage of the tournament.