Leon Balogun ruled OUT of Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations squad as Rangers handed boost ahead of rescheduled Old Firm derby

The defender has lost his fitness battle and has withdrawn from the Super Eagles side

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Rangers defender Leon Balogun has been ruled OUT of Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations squad after losing his fitness battle.

The 33-year-old was named in the Super Eagles’ final 28-man list for the Cameroon tournament last week but has now been forced to withdraw from interim manager Augustine Eguavoen’s side.

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Rangers defender Leon Balogun has returned to training after a four-match injury absence and could feature against Lyon on Thursday. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Balogun has not played since limping off injured during the Premier Sports Cup semi-final defeat to Hibernian in November.

The centre-back returned to training earlier this month but was facing a race against time to feature for his country and he has now been forced to accept defeat.

However, Bassey’s surprise omission and Balogun’s lack of fitness will mean both players will stay in Glasgow, with Aribo now the only Light Blues star travelling to Abuja for a pre-tournament training camp.

Rangers duo Leon Balogun, left, and Joe Aribo, right, have been called into the Nigeria squad for AFCON.

Balogun will now use the extra time to prepare the rescheduled Old Firm clash on February 2 and should Nigeria fail to reach the semi-finals then Aribo will also return in time to face Celtic at Parkhead.

Meanwhile, Rangers are unlikely to recall defender Nikola Katic from his loan spell at Hajduk Split.

The 25-year-old returned to his homeland in the summer as he looked to get much-needed game time under his belt after a severe knee injury ensured he spent a year on the sidelines.

Rangers defender Nikola Katic is expected to remain on loan with Hadjuk Split. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

The Light Blues have the option to recall the centre-back in January but it is believed they have no immediate plans to bring him back to Scotland.

With fellow centre-halves Balogun and Filip Helander nearing a return to competitive action after injury, Katic is now likely stay in Croatia until the end of the season.

He scored an own goal on his most recent appearance in a 3-3 draw against Lokomotiv Zagreb on December 11.