Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa is facing a further few weeks without Luke Ayling, as the right-back is not expected to be fit until October following the surgery carried out on his ankle, according to Football Insider.
Ayling was forced to undergo an operation to his ankle during the summer break as a result of a knock sustained during the Whites’ pre-season, that left Bielsa without a defender who featured in 42 games across all competitions last season (TransferMarkt).
Ayling was a key part of the Leeds side that reached the Championship play-off semi-finals in May, but is yet to feature this season as a result of the surgery carried out in the summer.
The Whites released footage of the 28-year-old right-back training at Thorp Arch on their social channels last month, but a source from within the West Yorkshire outfit has allegedly informed Football Insider that a return to first-team action is still some weeks away.
Bielsa and his backroom staff are reluctant to usher Ayling back into the first-team fold before his ankle is ready to withstand the test of second-tier action, and will instead utilise the club’s Under 23s as a route to gain fitness.
Carlos Corberan is expected to name the London-born defender as an over-aged player in the Professional Development League, but Ayling was not included in the squad that drew with Crystal Palace on Monday, while their next outing is at Elland Road against Watford on September 16.
Once Ayling has formed a base fitness level with the youth squad, his first-team return will come through a string of substitute displays before Bielsa will consider his name for selection in the starting line-up.
Ayling is not assured to regain his place in the starting line-up when fit, however, as Football Insider note that he faces a fight with Stuart Dallas for the right-back role he frequently held down last term.
Dallas has not been missing from a Championship starting teamsheet at all this term, with the Northern Ireland international only rested in the Carabao Cup ties with Salford City and Stoke (TransferMarkt).
The natural right-winger, who played a predominant share of his outings at left-back last season, has also been one of Leeds most consistent performers this term, with an average WhoScored rating of 7.09 – a score only bettered by Pablo Hernandez, Ben White, Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper.
To earn his score, Dallas has won 11 of his 20 attempted tackles, recorded seven interceptions, 12 clearances and eight blocks, while completing eight of his 12 attempted dribbles, 287 of his 341 attempted passes and only being dispossessed five times.
Bielsa will undoubtedly be glad to have Ayling back in his ranks soon, though, as he is currently short on natural alternatives should Dallas suffer any form of injury.
Leeds fans, should Ayling regain the right-back role once fit or has Dallas done enough to warrant a continued presence in Bielsa’s defence? Let us know in the comments below…Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more Leeds United notifications!