Glasgow Rangers defender Filip Helander has tested positive for coronavirus, which has ruled him out of the Europa League clash with Standard Liege on Thursday night.
The 27-year-old was left out of Steven Gerrard’s squad for last night’s win over Falkirk in the Betfred Cup and will have to self-isolate for at least ten days.
Rangers duo George Edmundson and Jordan Jones are also self-isolating after being suspended by the club for breaching COVID rules.
The news was confirmed by Gerrard in his post-match press conference after Rangers’ 4-0 rout against Falkirk sent them through to the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup.
Gerrard told the news conference: “I’ll speak to Filip in the morning too to get a feeling of how he is, but he’ll be missing for 10 days and it’s a blow for us.
“With George missing too it leaves us a bit light in the central areas. That’s what Covid can do so you’ve got to try and guard against it.
The Gers are scheduled to play Standard Liege in the Europa League at Ibrox later this week before facing Ross County at the Global Energy Stadium at the weekend.
Helander would’ve been expected to start at least one of these upcoming fixtures but Leon Balogun will most likely keep his place in the starting line-up, having been recalled by Gerrard for both games since the international break.
Unfortunately, we’re now at the point where a positive test is hardly a surprise but Helander’s absence will mean that the Nigerian international will be given more time to shine.
With Edmundson already suspended, the Light Blues are without two centre-backs, which means Balogun will have to step up to the plate.
If anyone had said at the start of the season that the former Bologna centre-back would have fallen below Balogun in the pecking order, they would have probably had to endure public derision and scorn.
After all, Helander had established himself as a first-team regular starter, whilst the Gers initially signed the Nigerian as injury cover after Nikola Katic suffered a serious knee injury in pre-season training.
Now, it’s fair to say that it looks like the Gers have discovered a true gem amid a shortage of defensive options.
In three appearances in the Europa League, the 32-year-old is averaging 1.7 tackles and a staggering 7.3 clearances per game, via WhoScored. By comparison, Helander has only managed one tackle and two clearances per game in the European competition so far this season, as per WhoScored.
The Ibrox boss couldn’t contain his glee after Balogun started against Lech Poznan in the Europa League, dubbing him as a “fantastic” beast who is “very quick,” as quoted by The Herald.
Whilst Balogun has been in such fine form since he first arrived at Ibrox, Gerrard will no doubt be nervously watching on the sidelines as the action unfolds over the next week or so, as he will be hoping his new charge can survive the busy schedule relatively unscathed between now and the winter break.
AND in other news, Forget Barisic: Rangers striker Jermain Defoe has sent Gerrard a timely reminder…