Rangers have been handed a big injury relief over defender Leon Balogun…
On BT Sport’s commentary of the match on Thursday night, Ally McCoist noted that the Nigerian may have been carrying an injury and suggested that he had a “niggle” as he was substituted in the second half against Braga in their Europa League clash.
However, Gio van Bronckhorst was asked about that after the game and he confirmed that the player was taken off as part of a tactical switch.
The Rangers boss said: “No, we wanted the left side to be a little more solid with Calvin [Bassey] coming inside. Borna has played that role in the past and also for Croatia as a wing-back.”
This will surely leave Van Bronckhorst relieved, as he will surely be keen to keep the Nigeria international fit heading into the final weeks of the campaign.
Balogun was culpable for Braga’s winning goal as he misjudged his attempted clearance, but on the whole he has been impressive this season. One error does not make a player a liability and the centre-back has had plenty of good games to make up for that mistake.
In the Europa League this term, he has averaged a SofaScore rating of 7.06. He has made a whopping 4.3 tackles and interceptions per game, in comparison to Connor Goldson’s 2.4, and this shows that, more often than not, the 33-year-old offers a lot of quality at the back.
The ex-Wigan defender has also caught the eye with his strong showings in the Premiership. He has averaged a SofaScore rating of 6.98 across 18 top-flight outings, making 3.1 tackles and interceptions per match and winning 63% of his overall duels.
This shows that he has been able to dominate the opposition in most of his matches in the Scottish top flight, which is why having him available will be a huge boost for Van Bronckhorst. At the age of 33, Balogun may not be able to play every single match, but keeping him fresh and able to play in the important games is vital, as he has shown that he can put in excellent performances domestically and in Europe.
Filip Helander has started ahead of him in two Premiership matches in 2022 and the Sweden international was hooked at half-time in both, recording SofaScore ratings of 6.5 and 6.7 against Dundee United and Dundee FC respectively.
This suggests that Van Bronckhorst does not have a top-quality player waiting in the wings to replace Balogun. Therefore, he will be very much relieved that the Nigerian defender has not suffered an injury problem and will be available to play in the upcoming matches.