Rangers boss provides injury update on Balogun ahead of Scottish Cup final

Rangers manager Philippe Clement has given an injury update on Leon Balogun ahead of their final game of the 2023-2024 season, the Scottish FA Cup final against Celtic at Hampden Park, Glasgow, on Saturday 25 May.

Balogun is working to recover in time for the match after sustaining a back injury during the first half of Rangers' 4-1 victory over Kilmarnock on 5 May.

Since then, the Nigeria international has missed three consecutive games, including a crucial match against Celtic.

Rangers' defence has struggled without Balogun, conceding seven goals in the last three games.

Leon Balogun
Photo by Icon Sport

Despite having limited game time for several months after rejoining Rangers last summer, Balogun had earned a spot in the starting lineup before his recent injury, starting three consecutive matches across all competitions.

The Belgian trainer mentioned the centre-back amongst several other players following his side’s 3-3 draw with Hearts at Tynecastle in their final match of the Scottish Premiership season.

Philippe Clement's remarks on Leon Balogun

Speaking post-match to the Rangers Review, Clement said: “We will see if Leon Balogun can be fit again. It is difficult for me to plan the starting XI and what players are going to make it. We need to assess with the medical and performance staff first who's going to be available for that game and for how many minutes.”

The Nigerian had struggled to get into the Rangers team since the turn of the year but returned to the starting line-up during the Scottish Cup semi-final against Hearts in April.

His impressive performance against Hearts saw him rewarded with another start against St. Mirren in the league.

Philppe Clement @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

The seasoned central defender returned to the Scottish record Champions for a second stint from Queens Park Rangers (QPR), but the transfer hasn't unfolded as anticipated.

He has mainly played a supporting role behind players such as Connor Goldson and John Souttar.

Leon Balogun's numbers for Rangers this season

Despite limited game time, Leon Balogun has emerged as a pivotal figure for Rangers in the 2023/24 Scottish elite league season.

With 14 appearances, including 13 starts, the Super Eagles defender has made the most of his opportunities on the field, showcasing consistent excellence whenever called upon by the Gers.

Averaging 76 minutes per game, Balogun's impact and reliability in the team's defensive lineup remain unquestionable.

Despite limited appearances, his contributions have been invaluable, highlighted by his inclusion in the Team of the Week twice, demonstrating his standout performances.

Balogun's defensive prowess has been instrumental in Rangers' success, contributing to the team's impressive record of seven clean sheets in games where he featured.

With an average of 1.3 interceptions, 1.5 tackles, and clearances per game, Balogun has proven himself as a defensive stalwart for the Gers.

Why Balogun's fitness could be crucial for Rangers in the Scottish Cup final

Rangers head into their Scottish Cup Final clash with Celtic following a streak of inconsistent Premiership form that effectively handed the title to their rivals.

Their Old Firm record this season is also concerning, with the previous four league encounters yielding just one point out of a possible 12.

That lone point came from a dramatic 3-3 draw at Ibrox, where Rangers scored two late equalisers.

Celtic won the other three matches, each by a one-goal margin. While the close scores suggest the teams are evenly matched, Celtic's three victories highlight their edge in crucial games.

Clement is hopeful that Balogun, along with players like Abdallah Sima and Razvan Yilmaz, will be fit to start at Hampden Park on 25 May.

Leon Balogun
Photo by Icon Sport

Balogun has been a defensive anchor since his return to Rangers, in contrast to the underwhelming performances of veterans James Tavernier, Connor Goldson, and Borna Barisic.

With his contract expiring this summer, a strong performance against Celtic could be key for the 35-year-old to secure a new deal at Ibrox.

He joined the Gers in July 2020 from Wigan Athletic, and has made 52 appearances for the Scottish giants since his arrival.

Balogun has previously played for Türkiyemspor Berlin, Hannover 96, Werder Bremen, Fortuna Düsseldorf, Darmstadt 98, Mainz 05, Brighton & Hove Albion, and Wigan Athletic, with a loan spell at Queens Park Rangers (QPR).

Leon Balogun's career with the Super Eagles

Born to a Nigerian father and a German mother, Balogun received his first call-up to the Nigerian national team for a friendly against Mexico in March 2014, stepping in as a replacement for Joseph Yobo.

Unfortunately, his debut was marred by an injury sustained just 20 minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute. He collided with advertising signage along the touchline, resulting in a foot fracture.

Initially, it was expected that he would undergo surgery and face a 2-3 month recovery period. However, Balogun later clarified to the media that surgery was unnecessary.

He earned his second cap for Nigeria on 25 March 2015, playing in a 1-0 defeat against Uganda. Subsequently, on 13 June 2015, he featured in Nigeria's 2-0 victory over Chad in the opening match of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

In June 2018, Balogun was named in Nigeria's final 23-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Throughout the tournament, he played every minute of Nigeria's three matches, including a notable 2-0 victory over Iceland, although Nigeria were eliminated after finishing third in their group.

Leon Balogun
Photo by Icon Sport

Balogun was also selected for Nigeria's squad in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Making his tournament debut in the Super Eagles' second group stage match against Guinea, he contributed to a 1-0 victory that secured Nigeria's advancement to the knockout stage.

He featured in four games during the competition, with Nigeria ultimately placing third in the tournament.

Unfortunately, persistent injuries have forced Super Eagles coaches to sideline Balogun from their squads for some time now.

Can he force himself into Finidi George's Super Eagles team for the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin slated for next month?

Balogun has made 46 appearances for the Super Eagles, scoring one goal.

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Godfred Budu, a Ghanaian sports journalist, brings a dynamic perspective to the field with over a decade of experience. Having contributed to esteemed platforms such as Kickgh.com and Inkandkicks.com. Godfred is recognised for his insightful commentary and in-depth analysis of African football.
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