Zurich-based pair key for Tunisia AFCON hopes

Zurich-based pair Yassine Chikhaoui and Amine Chermiti will be key to Tunisia's African Cup of Nations bid after being named in the squad.

Chikhaoui - Tunisia's captain - and Chermiti were two of the 11 players based outside Tunisia that coach George Leekens selected in his extended 26-man squad on Sunday.

The final squad of 23 will be submitted on January 7.

Zurich sit second in the Swiss Super League after the first half of the 2014-15 campaign - eight points adrift of leaders Basel.

Both Chikhaoui and Chermiti have been critical to Zurich's strong season so far, playing 17 and 16 games respectively.

Midfielder Chikhaoui is equal-third in the Super League's goal-scoring standings with seven to his name, while striker Chermiti has five.

The duo are amongst the most experienced members of Leekens' squad with Chermiti having scored six goals in 36 caps for Tunisia, while Chikhaoui has made 32 appearances for five goals.

Leekens has also picked Ligue 1-based trio Aymen Abdennour of Monaco, Bordeaux's Wahbi Khazri and Jamel Saihi of Montpellier.

Abdennour returned to Monaco's starting line-up in the weeks leading up to the winter break after a thigh strain kept him sidelined from September into October.

The central defender started the past six straight matches as Monaco rose to fifth in Ligue 1 with four consecutive wins, while Khazri has started 16 games for sixth-placed Bordeaux and Saihi has started 10 for Montpellier, who sit 10th.

Uncapped Lens striker Yoann Touzghar, 28, was the surprise inclusion.

Squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Moez Ben Cherifia (Esperance de Tunis), Farouk Ben Mustapha (Club Africain), Aymen Mathlouthi (Etoile du Sahel)

Defenders: Mohamed Ali Yaakoubi (Esperance de Tunis), Aymen Abdennour (Monaco), Rami Bedoui (Etoile du Sahel), Syam Ben Youssef (Astra Giurgiu), Ali Maaloul (Club Sportif Sfaxien), Hamza Mathlouthi (CA Bizertin), Bilel Mohsni (Rangers), Slim Ben Jemai (Laval), Yassine Mikari (Club Africain)

Midfielders: Yassine Chikhaoui (Zurich), Stephane Nater (Club Africain), Mohamed Ali Moncer (Club Sportif Sfaxien), Hocine Ragued (Esperance de Tunis), Ferjani Sassi (Club Sportif Sfaxien), Jamel Saihi (Montpellier), Wahbi Khazri (Bordeaux), Anis Ben Hatira (Hertha Berlin)

Forwards: Youssef Msakni (Lekhwiya), Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Club Sportif Sfaxien), Saber Khelifa (Club Africain), Hamza Younes (Ludogorets), Amine Chermiti (Zurich), Yohan Touzghar (Lens)