Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has explained the surprise absence of Joe Aribo from the matchday squad against Benfica on Thursday night [Official Rangers FC Twitter].

Aribo has been involved in every Gers fixture since recovering from an ankle injury in October and he played 75 minutes of Sunday’s win over Aberdeen.

Rangers v Aberdeen - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership

Joe Aribo featured for Rangers against Aberdeen but was missing against Benfica. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

However, the Nigeria international didn’t make the starting XI or the bench for the 2-2 draw with Benfica in Europa League Group D, which was a cause for concern for supporters ahead of kick-off.

It was a minor illness rather than an injury that ruled him out of contention, though, and his manager has predicted that he could return to the fold for the League Cup tie against Falkirk on Sunday.

“He was unwell – he had a stomach complaint last night,” said Gerrard [Official Rangers FC Twitter]. “The plan was for Joe to be involved but he’s had a stomach complaint so we’ve been getting him some checks and assessing him.”

 

“Hopefully, he’ll be available for the weekend.”

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Rangers v Aberdeen - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership

Steven Gerrard is hoping to have Joe Aribo back sooner rather than later. (Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Aribo is a key player and his absence was a blow on Thursday night, particularly with Ryan Jack and Bongani Zungu both out also out.

The midfield three of Steven Davis, Scott Arfield and Glen Kamara did well in the game but the presence of Aribo on the bench would have allowed Gerrard to bring on some fresh legs and quality as Rangers tried to see out the game.

Yet, supporters will be relieved that the 24-year-old doesn’t look to be facing a long period on the sidelines, and his return would allow for rotation against third-tier side Falkirk on Sunday.

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