Rangers tempted to leave key player out with Celtic clash on manager's mind

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst admits he could leave Joe Aribo out of his team to face Dundee United on Saturday amid the threat of the midfielder missing the Old Firm game at Celtic Park through suspension.

Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo has been in sparkling form for the Scottish champions in recent weeks. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo has been in sparkling form for the Scottish champions in recent weeks. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Aribo has picked up five bookings in the Premiership so far this season and a sixth at Ibrox against United would incur an automatic one-match ban which would be served when the champions face closest rivals Celtic in January 2.

The 25-year-old is enjoying a fine campaign and has been the outstanding performer for Rangers since van Bronckhorst replaced Steven Gerrard as manager last month.

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But the Dutch coach will consider whether the circumstances mean Aribo should remain on the sidelines this weekend.

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)

“Yes, of course,” said van Bronckhorst. “You are preparing the game for tomorrow, but you obviously have your plans for the next games if possible, especially if you have players one card from suspension.

“Also physically, you have to watch the load for the players. You have to take everything into account.

“Joe is a very big player for me. He has played his role really well, I’m really happy with his performances.

“When you have a midfield player who is dangerous with his runs, with his off the ball movement, you create more danger from different areas. It’s all good with him right now.”

Along with defenders Leon Balogun and Calvin Bassey, Aribo is expected to be named in the Nigeria squad for the Africa Cup of Nations finals tournament which is scheduled to take place in Cameroon from January 9 to 6 February.

It had been suggested that European-based players would have to join up with their national squads on December 27, which would have meant the Rangers trio missing the crucial Premiership games away to Aberdeen and Celtic before the winter break.

But van Bronckhorst revealed an agreement has been reached that his players will not travel until after the game at Celtic Park.

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“They will be here with the team, 100 per cent,” he said. “For me, it was already clear that we would release them if needed after the Old Firm game. So we have the full squad until we go into the winter break.”

Van Bronckhorst is anticipating interest in some of his key players, such as Aribo and winger Ryan Kent who are both entering the final 18 months of their contracts, during the January transfer window.

He has already made it clear he would like Rangers to extend their deals but is unsure whether that business can be conducted next month.

“We’ll have to see,” he said. “Obviously, I’m happy with those players. I also know the situation with the club.

“Especially the players who are playing really well at the moment, lots of interest. But I’d rather have this situation than players who aren’t playing well.

“I know when you play good, you get interest. Of course, I like all my players but sometimes you have to make decisions if you get new contracts. Both parties have to be positive about that, so we will see what happens during this break and also the summer break.

“The most important thing is that you are prepared as a club, no matter what.”

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