RANGERS’ hopes of halting Celtic’s treble push have been dealt a major blow after skipper Lee Wallace was ruled out of this month’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final.
And a defensive injury crisis will force new boss Pedro Caixinha to play youngsters David Bates and Myles Beerman when his side take on Kilmarnock on Wednesday night.
Wallace has undergone surgery on the abdominal problem he picked up playing in Scotland’s friendly against Canada.
And the left-back could now also miss the second part of this month’s Old Firm double-header, which takes place when Rangers and Celtic meet in the league at Ibrox six days after the April 23 cup showdown at Hampden.
The news, which Caixinha broke during his pre-match press conference ahead of the Kilmarnock trip, is the last thing the Rangers faithful would want to hear as Brendan Rodgers’ newly-crowned Premiership champions gear up for a clean sweep.
But Caixinha is remaining optimistic, saying: “Lee Wallace should be finishing his surgery right now so maybe for the next three to four weeks he will be out of the team.
“His problem is in the stomach area but he can still celebrate with us at the end of the season, which means I hope to have him back for further on than the semi-final.”
As well as Wallace, the Portuguese coach is also missing centre-backs Clint Hill, Rob Kiernan (both calf) and Philippe Senderos (knee) as well as full-back Lee Hodson (fever).
And Caixinha surprised reporters by taking the unusual step of naming his starting line-up to face Killie 36 hours before kick-off.
Gers will start with Wes Foderingham in goal and a back four of James Tavernier, 20-year-old former Raith defender Bates, Danny Wilson and Beerman – an 18-year-old Malta international signed from Manchester City.
Sitting in front of that inexperienced back-line will be Andy Halliday and Jason Holt, while striker Joe Garner will be supported by midfield attackers Barrie McKay, Emerson Hyndman and Martyn Waghorn.
But the Light Blues boss is not worried about his patch-work defence.
“It is not important which players are out and which players are in,” he said. “It’s important that the players we have starting the game and those on the bench are players we trust and believe in, that we have total confidence in.
“After all, we are Rangers. And the players from our youth squad have to be ready when these chances come. So this is the moment.
“I have passed my trust and confidence to the guys. Now I’ve told them to go to Kilmarnock, enjoy it and do their work.”