Manchester City attacker Riyad Mahrez will lead Algeria's title-defence in Africa Cup of Nations. Image Credit: Supplied

Paris: Riyad Mahrez will captain Algeria as they defend their African Cup of Nations crown next month, named by coach Djamel Belmadi to lead his 28-man squad at the tournament in Cameroon.

The Manchester City attacker is one of 15 players from the squad that won the last finals in 2019 to return for the delayed 2021 edition, where Algeria compete in Group E against Equatorial Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. Algeria begin the defence of their crown against Sierra Leone on January 11 in Douala.

Sadio Mane, meanwhile, headlines a strong Senegal squad for the event where they will be one of the favourites. The Liverpool striker, the reigning African Footballer of the Year, will be key to Senegal’s hopes of winning a first continental title after finishing runners-up at the last edition in Egypt in mid-2019.

Coach Aliou Cisse has selected 27 players for the tournament in Cameroon, including captain Kalidou Koulibaly and Watford’s Ismaila Sarr, who have both been out with injury.

The 30-year-old Koulibaly suffered a thigh strain at the start of the month in Serie A with Napoli and had been ruled out for December, putting his participation at a third successive Cup of Nations in doubt.

Sarr hurt his knee in Watford’s 4-1 win over Manchester United last month, has not played since and was expected to be sidelined until February.

But Cisse has taken a chance on both recovering before for the tournament, where Senegal start their Group B campaign against Zimbabwe in Bafoussam on Jan. 10. They also take on Guinea and Malawi in the opening round. Cisse also included former France junior international Pape Gueye, who switched allegiance and made his debut for Senegal last month.

Also picked was Nampalys Mendy, another former France junior international who has not played a single game for Leicester City this season. He was a record signing for the club in 2016 but not included in their squad for the Premier League or Europa League this season.