Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst has confirmed that the three Ibrox stars likely to be involved in next month’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will be available for the Old Firm clash on January 2 against Celtic.

Joe Aribo, Leon Balogun and Calvin Bassey could all be called up to the Nigeria squad for the tournament in Cameroon with players due to have been released before the end of December.

However, Rangers had been in talks with the Nigerian Football Federation and the Super Eagles’ chiefs have agreed to allow the Ibrox trio to report late – if they are named in the squad for the finals.

Aribo and Balogun are almost guaranteed to be involved but Bassey isn’t quite as certain of his place in the squad after only recently winning his first call up to the Super Eagles squad.

Things were further confused when Nigeria sacked head coach Gernot Rohr earlier this week with Nigerian technical director Augustine Eguavoen taking interim charge of the side ahead of the AFCON finals.


The competition takes place Cameroon between January 9 and February 6 but with Rangers away on their winter break for much of January, it lessens the impact of losing the trio to AFCON.

However, should Nigeria progress in the tournament, all three could still miss games with Stirling Albion, Livingston, Ross County, Hearts and Hibs – leaving Gio van Bronckhorst without three vital players for some really important games.

Olympique Lyon v Rangers FC: Group A - UEFA Europa League afcon old firm

Rangers Joe Aribo will be a big loss while he’s in Cameroon (Photo by Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

AFCON-bound Rangers trio vital for Old Firm clash

With Filip Helander likely to return from injury during the winter break, it at least offer some more cover in defence but losing both Balogun and Bassey at the same time is still going to be felt by Rangers.

Joe Aribo’s absence will also really hurt with the Super Eagles midfielder in phenomenal form just now and really starting to develop into the consistent midfield linchpin Rangers have lacked.

Having all three Rangers stars available for the Old Firm is a fantastic boost though and should really strengthen the chances of extending the lead at the top of the Premiership table.

In other news, two Rangers stars will be facing off against each other as the draw for the 2022/23 UEFA Nations League was made.

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