Now the stars swap the Etihad Stadium and Anfield grounds of their clubs for the 30 June Stadium in Cairo, and a Group C showdown likely to decide who tops the final standings.
While both countries seem sure to qualify for the round of 16, topping the table would theoretically offer less formidable opponents in the first knockout stage.
Here, we preview a Group C double-header that includes an east African duel between Kenya and Tanzania, plus a Group B meeting of newcomers Burundi and Madagascar.
Algeria v Senegal
While supporters, the media and publicists focus on Mahrez and Mane, Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi is less happy with that situation.
“I am not in favour of highlighting individuals over teams,” said the former Manchester City midfielder. “We must put less emphasis on Riyad.”
Belmadi was much happier when recalling a winning start for his team with Baghdad Bounedjah and Mahrez scoring in a routine 2-0 victory over Kenya.
“Collecting maximum points from our first match meant a lot because Algeria have a history of poor starts at the Cup of Nations.”
Mane returns after a suspension ruled him out of the 2-0 win over Tanzania and coach Aliou Cisse says he is happy, particularly with the half-volley goal of 20-year-old Krepin Diatta.
Kenya v Tanzania
Tanzanian lawmakers who travelled to Egypt for the Senegal match returned home unhappy with the diet and allowances of the national squad coached by former Nigeria star Emmanuel Amunike.
“It is important for our footballers to have enough food to face a team like Senegal,” said parliament speaker Job Ndugai.
“Taifa Stars, the national team, is the government team. The government has to invest money in the national team,” added Juma Nkamia from the ruling party.
Opposition member Pascal Haonga said: “Paying a derisory per diem is partly responsible for the loss. According to our information, they each receive $100 instead of 300.”
Amunike had a different take on the defeat: “We lacked the experience and quality of Senegal, made a lot of mistakes and were naive.”
Burundi v Madagascar
This battle of countries making their first appearance at the Cup of Nations has huge significance for both the Burundian Swallows and the Malagasy Barea (prized cattle).
Ordinarily, it would be a dead-rubber given that Nigeria and Guinea are expected to occupy the top two positions in Group B and secure automatic qualification for the round of 16.
But with four of the six third-place teams in Egypt also advancing after the tournament was expanded from 16 teams to 24, Burundi and Madagascar have it all to play for.
Burundi were a well-organised outfit when losing 1-0 to a late Odion Ighalo goal for three-time champions Nigeria in Mediterranean city Alexandria.
Madagascar impressed going forward but were often suspect at the back when exceeding expectations by drawing 2-2 with Guinea, who lacked star Naby Keita for most of the match.
Senegal and Tanzania finalised their preparations ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations opener.
Senegal are among the favourites for the tournament despite never winning the competition before.
‘The Lions of Teranga’ finished runners-up in 2002 but since then haven’t advanced beyond the quarter-finals.
Aliou Cisse will be hoping star forward Sadio Mane can inspire his side having just won the UEFA Champions League.
Tanzania are taking part in AFCON for the first time since 1980 and will face a difficult task to advance from Group C that also includes Algeria and Kenya.
Watch Senegal’s preparations above:
Fernando Torres singled out former team-mate Steven Gerrard as the best player he has played with as he announced he will hang up his boots in August.
The former Liverpool and Chelsea striker, who has been playing in Japan for Sagan Tosu since leaving Atletico Madrid last year, held a press conference in Tokyo to explain his decision to retire from the game after an 18-year career.
The 35-year-old said he wanted to leave football with a “clear conscience” and before he felt he could not carry on mentally or physically in the game he loves.
“I have a high demand for myself,” he said.
“I’ve always wanted to be honest and to perform at the level I think I should and I think the time I will not be able to perform at the level I ask for myself is not far away and I don’t want to arrive at the time that I am going on the pitch and I’m not enjoying it.
“I want to put an end before that happens. Knowing my body and listening to my body, I think especially mentally that time is not far away and I want to finish my career in a good way before that happens.”
Asked who had made the biggest impression during his career, the Spaniard, who played at Anfield between 2007-2011, did not hesitate to name his former captain.
“I always say the best player I played with is Steven Gerrard. I found he was the player who completed my game. I think my level got into a different dimension when I was on the pitch with him.
“It was an amazing three-and-a-half years playing alongside Steven and I would love to go back to those days – even for one minute.”
Torres revealed he will play his last game on August 23 against Vissel Kobe, saying playing against friends Andres Iniesta and David Villa seemed a fitting end.
“To say goodbye to football next to my dear friend Iniesta is something I could never imagine, and Japan is going to make it possible.
“Also there will be my friend David Villa, with who I probably share the best moments in Spanish football history.
“So to say goodbye to football next to two very good friends – we share too many memories together – will be something great.
“I tried to find an iconic moment to play my final game and I think that is the perfect timing.”
Torres also spoke of his next steps and his desire to connect with Atletico Madrid in the future.
“I don’t know if it will be coaching or managing. I will study both things.
“I’m sure it will be something related to football because it’s been my life and it’s where I think I can offer more things.”
Speaking of his hometown club, Torres added: “Atletico Madrid is my life, so probably we will connect some way in the future but not immediately.
“I will not be back to just be a face… if I go back it will be for big things, to take the club to the next level.
“That needs time. I don’t have the experience, the knowledge of managing, I need time to prepare myself for the biggest challenge.”
Torres scored 81 goals across four seasons with Liverpool and won the Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup with Chelsea.
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