Riyad Mahrez and Algeria train ahead of Afcon 2021 title defence - in pictures

Defending champions begin campaign against Sierra Leone in Douala on Monday

Riyad Mahrez called on Algeria to rise to the challenge in Cameroon as they prepare to start their defence of the Africa Cup of Nations title.

The Manchester City winger took part in training at the Japoma Stadium in Douala, west Cameroon on Monday as Algeria stepped up their preparations for Tuesday's opener against outsiders Sierra Leone.

Mahrez, 30, captained his country to victory against Senegal in the 2019 final in Egypt, and Djamel Belmadi's team are unbeaten in competitive action since then.

"This will be even harder than the last Afcon. The level will be a step up and the other teams are better, but we come here with the ambition and determination to try to replicate what we did in 2019 and achieve great things again," Mahrez told reporters.

Algeria head into the tournament boasting a 34-match unbeaten run in competitive matches, a run that does not include the recent Arab Cup in Qatar, in which Mahrez and other senior players did not participate.

Mahrez is one of the biggest stars at the Cup of Nations, which is going ahead despite some pressure from leading European clubs to postpone the tournament again, such was their reluctance to release leading players mid-season amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, Mahrez said he had no problem with City, the runaway English Premier League leaders.

"Everything was fine with City. It's not up to the clubs because we are playing for our country and it is a big tournament like the Euro or Copa America," he said.

Updated: January 11th 2022, 6:47 AM