Saints will lose Sofiane Boufal to the Africa Cup of Nations after the upcoming New Year double header.

Claude Puel confirmed that Boufal will be allowed to join up with Morocco ahead of the tournament in Gabon after Saints have taken on Everton at Goodison Park on Monday.

Morocco’s first game is on January 16. Should Morocco reach the final, which is played on February 5, Boufal will be absent for five weeks.

He is now definitely ruled out of playing any part in Saints’ two-legged EFL Cup semi-final with Liverpool.

The return leg at Anfield is on January 24, just a day after Morocco play their final group game, meaning even an early elimination wouldn’t get him back and available in time.

It is a blow for Saints, who are starting to see promising signs from their club record £16m signing having got him fit again.

However, Puel is hoping that Dusan Tadic will take his chance to shine in Boufal’s absence.

Puel confirmed: “We need to leave him (Boufal) for Morocco after January 2.

“It’s an important competition for him. For us it’s a little difficult of course.

“It’s a normality and we cannot do anything, and it’s important to respect this.

“We will find other solutions. For example, Dusan can come back with a good level, fit and can bring for the team all his qualities.”