Giovanni van Bronckhorst provides injury update on defensive duo as Rangers boss explains Joe Aribo omission against Dundee United

Centre-back pairing Leon Balogun and Filip Helander have yet to feature under the Dutchman

<p>Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst expects interest from other clubs in some of his players during the January transfer window. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)</p>

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst expects interest from other clubs in some of his players during the January transfer window. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst has issued an injury update on defensive duo Leon Balogun and Filip Helander with both players stepping up their recovery.

Nigerian international Balogun has been sidelined for over a month but is expected to return to full training this week and win his fitness battle in time for the New Year derby with rivals Celtic on January 2.

Position: CB 2021-22 SPL Appearances: 11 Clean Sheets: 3 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Van Bronckhorst is hopeful the centre-back, whose last appearance came in the 3-1 defeat to Hibernian in the Premier Sports Cup semi-final, could be involved in their Boxing Day showdown with St Mirren at Ibrox.

He said: “Leon went to Germany for a couple of days but is back now. So hopefully this week he will start training again.”

However, the Dutchman confirmed the Old Firm clash at Parkhead will come too soon for fellow defender Filip Helander, who is unlikely to feature for the Light Blues until after the winter break.

The Swede has been out since September after he was stretched off against St Johnstone with a knee problem.

Van Bronckhorst stated: “I don’t think we’re going to see Filip before the winter break.”

However, the news that both players are not far away from a return to competitive action will provide a major boost to Van Bronckhorst for the second half of the season.

Rangers supporters watch on as Filip Helander is stretchered off during the cinch Premiership match between St Johnstone and Rangers. Picture: SNS

Calvin Bassey has provided fitting cover at centre-half alongside Connor Goldson in recent weeks but having more options to call upon at the back will only aid the Gers pursuit to defend the Premiership title.

Meanwhile the omission of Joe Aribo against Dundee United on Saturday caused confusion among supporters pre-match but Van Bronckhorst explained his though-process behind resting his star performer.

The Nigerian midfielder is one booking away from a suspension and a yellow card would have ruled him out of the crucial Celtic clash.

With the score line still goalless after 65 minutes, however, Van Bronckhorst’s decision to bring Aribo of the bench to provide a spark paid off.

James Tavernier’s penalty six minutes later sealed a vital 1-0 over Covid-hit United as the league leaders extended their gap at the top of the table to seven points, after Celtic’s involvement in the Premier Sports Cup final.

Rangers captain James Tavernier scores the only goal of the game against Dundee United at Ibrox with a 71st minute penalty kick. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

He admitted: “I was looking ahead with Joe. It was a bit of a risk for him to be playing because we could have lost him if he is booked.

“I would never have put him in if we were winning - but at that moment we needed his input.

“I had to take off John Lundstram at half-time because the game needed some other formation.

“I tried it first with Ianis Hagi inside with Scott Arfield. Then I put Joe in there to give us more threat going forward.

“I’m just happy he didn’t receive a yellow. We will now have him until the winter break.”