Right-back Leon Balogun was exposed by Celtic on Sunday in the absence of Rangers talisman James Tavernier.
That is according to ex-Scottish Premiership striker Noel Whelan, speaking exclusively to Football Insider after fellow right-back Nathan Patterson also missed the 1-1 with what manager Steven Gerrard has revealed is a calf problem.
Tavernier – Rangers’ top scorer and creator with 17 goals and 15 assists this season – has been absent since mid-February.
Quoted in The Scotsman on 3 March, manager Steven Gerrard claimed the 29-year-old’s recovery is going “slower than we wanted” and his return date has not been set.
A natural centre-back, Balogun was caught out in the build-up to Celtic’s goal, beaten for pace by Odsonne Edouard who crossed for Mohamed Elyounoussi to score.
Whelan claims that the absence of the skipper has hit them hard in several areas of the pitch and was laid bare by as Balogun floundered against Celtic.
He told Football Insider correspondent “They massively missed Tavernier. If you’ve got a player like that missing, you’re missing your captain, your leader.
“You could see Celtic targeting that as well. They could see there was a weak link in the defence and that’s where it was.
“When you’re missing a key player like Tavernier, you’re gonna feel it. Celtic, fair play to them, they recognised that and used it to their advantage.
“I think it showed just how much they miss him and just how good he is in that department. He gives you everything, defensively, in midfield, quality going forward.”
Tavernier has been a Rangers player since 2015 when he signed as a 23-year-old from Wigan Athletic.
He has gone on to play 284 times for the club, scoring 64 goals and registering 89 assists.