By Noel Whelan

20th Oct, 2021 | 1:00pm

Rangers set for crushing triple January blow that'll 'have bearing on title race' - pundit

Noel Whelan has claimed potential African Cup of Nations call-ups for Rangers trio Calvin Bassey, Leon Balogun and Joe Aribo will “have a bearing” on the Scottish Premiership title race.

The former Aberdeen striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, insisted the stars’ absences will disturb the “consistency” of Steven Gerrard’s side.

Bassey earned his first Nigeria call-up earlier this month, opening the door for inclusion in the Super Eagles squad to travel to January’s African Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon.

The 2021 African Cup of Nations will take place from 9 January – 6 February, meaning the Super Eagles trio could miss up to five Gers matches.

Rangers stalwarts Aribo and Balogun have secured a regular place in Nigeria’s squad, having made seven and 36 caps respectively.

The pair started both games in the World Cup qualifying double-header against the Central African Republic in early October.

Subscribe to Football Insider TV now

Summer signing Fashion Sakala is a full international for Zambia, who failed to qualify for the competition.

Whelan suggested the disruption is “not ideal”, but insisted it could provide an “opportunity” for players on the fringes.

“Rangers have got more strength in depth than most teams in the Scottish Premiership,” he told Football Insider‘s Ewan Kingsbury.

“But that said, it will have a bearing on the title race because you want to keep that consistency in the team.

“These call-ups are going to break up this squad.

“But whoever comes in has a great opportunity to shine even brighter than the players who are away, and a real chance to cement themselves in the team.

“You know the risks of bringing in players from South American or African nations, they will be unavailable at times.

“It’s far from ideal, but I’m sure it’s something they will have planned for.”

In other news, pundit issues “surprising” Rangers verdict after Gerrard lets rip.