Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Rangers' possible selection issues following Celtic game switch - 'frustration is not a good word'

Giovanni van Bronckhorst insists there is no frustration over the possibility of key Rangers players missing the rescheduled game against Celtic due to international duty.

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Joe Aribo, Leon Balogun and Calvin Bassey have been included in Nigeria's provisional squad for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations.

The Ibrox boss had previously revealed the trio would be available for the trip to Parkhead on January 2 after a delayed release to their national team was agreed.

However, the rescheduling of the winter break to start after Boxing Day means they could now miss a few Gers games, starting with Aberdeen on January 18 and potentially extending through to February 6 against Hearts, with the game at Celtic Park rescheduled for February 2.

Asked if the squad depletion scenario was a source of frustration, Van Bronckhorst replied: "Not at all. It's just the way football is.

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"Of course you want to have all your players available but you also know that sometimes the international calendar is not synchronised with the league.

"It's just the way it is. We have to take it as it comes and play the game with 11 players and seven players on the bench, but it's just the way it is.

"So frustration, for me, is not a good word. It's just handling the situation as it comes."

Cinch Premiership clubs voted 10-2 to postpone two rounds of fixtures following restrictions on crowd numbers, which were announced by the Scottish Government on Tuesday.

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The decision was officially taken at a meeting of the Scottish Professional Football League board the following day and, consequently, fixtures from December 29 and January 2-3 have been put back to January 17-18 and February 1-2 respectively.

Rangers and Ross County were reportedly the two clubs who voted against the idea, but Van Bronckhorst insists the Ibrox team respect the decision and will prepare for the home Boxing Day game against St Mirren, where they will look to at least retain their six-point gap over Celtic at the top of the table.

"It has been busy. Obviously we heard the news that Boxing Day was going to be 500 people (in attendance) and the decision to move the winter break to after Boxing Day," said the former Rangers midfielder, who revealed defender Balogun is in the squad after recovering from a knock and long-term injured centre-back Filip Helander (knee) is working his way back and could join up with the rest of the team after the break.

"I think we were clear as a club that we had our arguments, our standpoint in playing on for the last two games before the (original) break.

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"But the decision was made by the board and the league so we respect the decision and we move forward.

"The games still have to be played so for me that is no different. It is just preparing for the game is a little bit hectic.

"I mean hectic like we start with an away game against Aberdeen and the Europa League comes in February so we will have a really long run with two games in a week, but it is the way it is."

A Covid-affected St Mirren side battled to a goalless draw against Celtic in Paisley on Wednesday night to help Rangers' title cause.

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Van Bronckhorst said: "They had a good result and a good game against Celtic so they will come here with great morale and we have to prepare ourselves.

"We want to go into the winter break with the same advantage so we have to put all our energy into Sunday."

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