Senegal coach Aliou Cisse has retained 16 of the players he took the World Cup last year in his initial squad for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Among those to miss out on Cisse’s list of 25 is defender Kara Mbodji, who was at the World Cup but did not play.

The 29-year-old has had a difficult season after a loan spell at French club did not go to plan and saw him return to his Belgian side Anderlecht.

“His return to Anderlecht allowed him to play games but his club did not have a great season, it was difficult for them,” Cisse explained.

“Kara Mbodj is an important part of this national team. But Kara’s struggles date back to a year ago after a serious knee injury.

“I followed him until the last moment when I decided not to integrate him into the squad But I’m sure and he will come back much stronger.”

Cisse also pointed out that he has plenty of players competing for Mbodji’s position.”As with all teams, the absentees allows us to test other players and Salif Sane has established himself now with Kalidou Koulibaly,” he pointed out.

“Cheikhou Kouyate and Pape Abdou Cissa have shown very great things. So I find myself today with four central defenders for so the competition is tough.

“Each one is able to replace the other and everyone is able to play. I think they also deserve their selections because they have competed all season.”

Mbodji was philosophical about his omission.

“Just because he has not called me doesn’t mean I have anything to say about him (Cisse),” Mbodji said.

“Many said he should not take me to the World Cup and if he hadn’t picked me I would have understood.

“There is no problem between Aliou Cisse and me. We’ve known each other since 2012 and he cares about me.

Of the others who went to the World Cup the Horoya goalkeeper Khadim Ndiaye is out after sustaining a serious leg fracture in the Champions League this year while striker Moussa Sow has retired.

The other absentees are former West Ham forward Diafra Sakho, Mame Biram Diouf, Cheikh Ndoye and Adama Mbengue.

There is a recall for former Newcastle attacking midfielder Henri Saivet, who has not played since March 2018, following his fine season with Turkish side Bursaspor. Once again Senegal have plenty of strength in attack; Turkey-based Mbaye Diagne has 30 league goals this season, Mbaye Niang was the top scorer for French club Rennes while Liverpool’s Sadio Mane grabbed a share of the Premier League’s Golden Boot.

Senegal are in Group C along with Algeria, Kenya and Tanzania.

Senegal provisional squad:

Goalkeepers: Abdoulaye Diallo (Rennes, France), Alfred Gomis (SPAL, Italy), Edouard Mendy (Reims, France)

Defenders: Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli, Italy), Moussa Wague (Barcelona, Spain), Pape Abdou Cisse (Olympiakos, Greece), Salif Sane (Schalke, Germany), Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux, France), Lamine Gassama (Goztepe, Turkey), Saliou Ciss (Valenciennes, France), Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace, England)Midfielders: Alfred Ndiaye (Malaga, Spain), Santy Ngom (Nancy, France), Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton, England), Keprin Diatta (Club Brugge, Belgium), Badou Ndiaye (Galatasaray, Turkey), Sidy Sarr (Lorient, France), Henri Saivet (Bursaspor, Turkey)

Forwards: Ismaila Sarr (Rennes, France), Keita Balde (Inter Milan, Italy), Mbaye Niang (Rennes, France), Moussa Konate (Amiens, France), Mbaye Diagne (Galatasaray, Turkey), Sada Thioub (Nimes, France), Sadio Mane (Liverpool, England)