Rangers v Celtic: Injury worries, first cap, World Cup heartache, shocking scenes - how international stars warmed up for Old Firm showdown

Sunday’s cinch Premiership clash at Ibrox will have a significant impact on the destination of this season’s SPFL league title.

With just three points separating the league leaders, and Sunday’s visitors, Celtic, from reigning champions in second-place Rangers, there is a lot to play for.

It is inconvenient then for both Giovanni van Bronckhorst and his east end counterpart Ange Postecoglou to have their preparations to the big game cut by the international break which has seen many Old Firm stars jetting around the world to report for national team duty.

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With four days to go until the big match in Glasgow, here’s how each first-team player fared in their warm-up ahead of the third Old Firm match of season 2021-22.

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Borna Barisic

Croatia left-back Barisic sat out the 1-1 friendly draw with Slovenia, but was involved from the start in his side’s 2-1 win over Bulgaria on Tuesday night, picking up a yellow card with 13 minutes to go. After fitness doubts at various points throughout the season, completing the 90 will be a boost to Giovanni van Brocnkhorst’s options, especially given Calvin Bassey’s long-distance travel.

The Old Firm build-up has been disrupted by international call-ups for several players on each side. (Pictures: AFP via Getty/Getty/SNS)

Filip Helander

The Swedish defender has missed out on the latter stages of the Europa League, and there is more disappointment for the popular centre-back after Sweden lost the World Cup play-off final. Robert Lewandowski’s penalty and Piotr Zielenski’s second half strike sent Poland to Qatar and Helander was an unused substitute, watching the final. He did play five minutes of the semi-final extra-time win over Czech Republic, sent on to shore up the Swedes’ defence in the 115th minute.

Joe Aribo

The Rangers midfielder was also disappointed as Nigeria were pipped to a Qatar place too – losing on away goals to Ghana. Aribo featured for an hour of the goal-less first leg in a central role and completed all 90 in a more advanced position in Abuja before violence broke out at the final whistle and fans invaded the pitch.

Aaron Ramsey of Wales and Rangers was celebrating after his side's victory in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier knockout round play-off match between Wales and Austria at Cardiff City Stadium on March 24, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Calvin Bassey

The international break was a mixed bag for Bassey as the defender made his international debut, followed by his first start for the Super Eagles. After the personal milestones, disappointment followed with Nigeria eliminated and then the shocking scenes and tragic news from the aftermath.

Leon Balogun

The Berlin-born defender played the full 180 minutes of the play-off exit on his return to the national team. He missed the AFCON through injury.

Old Firm rivals Callum McGregor and Ryan Jack were team-mates for Scotland - and the same scenario was played out for Sweden and Croatia too. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Alfredo Morelos

Much has been made of the Colombian striker’s situation, travelling to his country’s two qualifiers despite visibly nursing an injury in recent weeks at Rangers. He missed the opening game against Bolivia through ‘muscle overload’ and then was unavailable again as James Rodriguez’s penalty defeated Venezuela. However Peru’d win over Paraguay means Colombia are not going to Qatar.

Steven Davis

It was a positive international break for the record-holding midfielder, who was on target for Northern Ireland in their 3-1 friendly win over Luxembourg and then extended his appearance record starting against Hungary. David was replaced by George Saville on the hour, shortly after Niall McGinn’s error gifted Roland Sallei the match-winner.

Ryan Jack

The midfielder replaced Old Firm counter-part Callum McGregor during the Hampden draw with Poland but started for Scotland in Vienna for the 2-2 draw with Austria. Jack was given almost an hour of action before replaced by Manchester United’s Scott McTominay.

Glen Kamara

Two friendlies were also on the agenda for Finland and Kamara came off the bench in the first, a 1-1 draw with Iceland, and then saw out the full game in a 2-0 defeat to Slovakia.

James Sands

The American was an unused substitute as his USMNT earned a place in the World Cup courtesy of a 0-0 draw with Mexico that prompted early celebrations. A 5-1 win over Panama has all but ensured a place in the Finals assuming they don’t lose by a five-goal margin to Costa Rica on Thursday morning.

Aaron Ramsey

Save the best result for last? The Welshman helped his country seal a play-off final spot against either Scotland or Ukraine in June with a 2-1 win over AUstria in Cardiff. Ramsey than sat out the friendly with Czech Republic, resting up before the Old Firm on Sunday.


Carl Starfelt

Like Helander, the Swede was a substitute in both his country’s games but didn’t get on the pitch as his Qatar hopes were dashed by Poland.

Reo Hatate

The Japanese midfielder made his international debut with 45 minutes against Vietnam in a 1-1 draw for the Blue Samurai. He was an unused substitute for the win over Australia last week.

Josep Juranovic

The Celtic defender played right midfield for 90 minutes of Croatia’s 1-1 draw with Slovenia then sat out the following friendly win over Bulgaria.

Callum McGregor

Captain McGregor started for Scotland at Hampden in the 1-1 draw with Poland, and was replaced by Rangers rival Ryan Jack. He joined Greg Taylor as an unused substitute in Vienna for the 2-2 draw with Austria.

Greg Taylor

Steve Clarke gave Taylor a rare Scotland start with Andy Robertson unavailable against Poland but he sat out the entire match in Vienna.

Matt O’Riley

The midfielder’s maiden call-up for Denmark was in the under-21 squad and he was an unusued substitute for the 1-1 draw with Belgium.

Stephen Welsh

Scotland’s under-21 captain played the full match in a disappointing display against Turkey at Tynecastle, but laid on a goal against Kazakhstan in the incident-packed trip, though substituted shortly after half-time having picked up a caution and at risk of seeing red.

Both sides also had youths involved including Lewis Mayo, Ben Williamson and Alex Lowry from Rangers at various age-groups and Celtic’s Ben Doak also catching the eye at under-17s level.

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