RANGERS received an unexpected boost to their Premiership title chances when Leon Balogun and Calvin Bassey were omitted from the Nigeria squad for the African Cup of Nations.

But Giovanni van Bronckhorst will have to do without his player of the season so far as Joe Aribo aims to inspire the Super Eagles to glory in Cameroon over the next four weeks.

The loss of Aribo is a real blow for the champions as they aim to pick up where they left off after the winter break and lay down a marker of their top flight intentions this term.

Here, Herald and Times Sport looks at the fixtures Aribo will miss if - as expected - Nigeria progress from their group and overcome Egypt, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau to reach the knockout rounds.


Dates: Egypt (January 11), Sudan (January 15), Guinea-Bissau (January 19)

Rangers make the trip to Pittodrie on January 18 and then host Stirling Albion in the Scottish Cup three days later. Nigeria are tipped to top their section and the Guinea-Bissau tie is unlikely to be Aribo's last in the tournament.


Date: January 23

If Nigeria do finish in first place in Group D, they will face a third placed side from Group B, E or F in Garoua. Rangers are set to host Livingston on January 26 and even a surprise exit for the Super Eagles is unlikely to see Aribo feature in that Ibrox clash.


Date: January 29

Progression to the last eight shouldn't be an issue for Nigeria but a tougher tie will lie in wait at this stage against a team from Group A or Group C. On the same day, Van Bronckhorst's side will head to Dingwall to face Ross County in a lunchtime kick-off.


Date: February 2

Aribo will be daring to dream of AFCON glory if he is lining up in Douala next month. The semi-final will be played on the same day as the second Old Firm clash of the campaign at Parkhead and that is the most important Rangers fixture that Aribo could miss.


Date: February 6

Once again, Aribo could find himself playing on the same day as his Ibrox team-mates and Hearts are the visitors on this occasion. If Nigeria do indeed go all the way, Aribo could well miss the meeting with Hibernian the following midweek as well.