Steven Gerrard should unleash Calvin Bassey in Rangers’ Scottish Premiership tie with Hamilton Academical on Sunday to see if he can deputise for Borna Barisic.
First-choice left-back Barisic has barely been able to catch a break this season, having made 35 appearances across all competitions, that being bettered only by the likes of Connor Goldson, James Tavernier and Ryan Kent respectively.
A Rangers victory over the Accies at New Douglas Park will see the 54-time Scottish champions widen the gap between themselves and the chasing pack, and take one step closer to their first title in a decade.
Barisic has played more often in the top flight than any other Rangers defender bar Goldson and Tavernier, with the 28-year-old featuring for 2,047′ of a possible 2,405′ minutes after starting the majority of their games so far.
The £6k-a-week earning Bassey, on the other hand, has hardly featured at all so far this season, with the former Leicester City youth prospect having the eighth-lowest playing time out of the entire Rangers squad.
The last of the 21-year-old’s three Premiership starts came in the 4-0 win at Ross County, with the youngster playing the full 90′ minutes.
But it is in the Europa League where he has made the biggest impression, with Gerrard heaping praise on his young charge for his performance against Standard Liege in the group stages.
Speaking after the game, Gerrard said, as quoted by the club’s official Twitter account.: “I thought he was outstanding, coming into a game of that level with so little experience. We are all proud of him and with time we believe we can develop him even further. He is in a good place and he is ready, every time he has been called upon he has produced.”
But it’s fair to say that Barisic, given the sheer amount of volume this season, has earned a well-deserved rest and Gerrard may not get a better opportunity than against the Accies, who are rock-bottom of the table. And, should this prove to be the case, Bassey should be the one to step in and fill his boots.
By the numbers, in terms of the statistics at least, there actually isn’t that much to choose from between them. Like Barisic, Bassey attacks the byline and looks to put the ball in dangerous areas – his 33.4 passes per 90 is only slightly less than the veteran’s 44.7.
Defensively, he’s also shown that he’s prepared to put the graft in to deny opponents, as evidenced by his 1.7 tackles and one interception per game, via WhoScored. For context, that’s more tackles than Barisic himself has managed this season (1 per 90).
Bassey started the last time the two sides met in the top flight, and thus he must be unleashed against a side who sit bottom of the Premiership. Otherwise, Gerrard may risk hindering his development. It’s the perfect chance to rest one of his key stars, and simultaneously hand out an opportunity to a player who’s on the fringes.
AND in other news, Exciting Rangers wonderkid Kai Kennedy is making waves in the Championship…