Leeds United maintained their unbeaten Championship record with a comfortable victory at Stoke City on Saturday, but Marcelo Bielsa should be overjoyed after Luke Ayling and Tyler Roberts appeared to make a significant step up in their returns to action in a video posted by the club on social media.
— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 26, 2019
The Whites duo have been the club’s only long-term absentees this season, in stark contrast to the worst moments of Bielsa’s first campaign at Elland Road, as the West Yorkshire side suffered frequent blows to some of their key players.
Versatile forward Tyler Roberts – who is capable of playing across the front line – has been out of action since the close of last season, as he had fluid drained from his knee.
Ayling, on the other hand, left Bielsa forced to draw Stuart Dallas across to the right-back spot after undergoing a minor operation on his ankle after suffering a knock during pre-season.
Bielsa has been reluctant to devolve much information over either’s progress, noting recently via quotes by Leeds Live: “Week by week, they are making the evaluation of this injury process.
“Probably it will be Roberts in the team before Luke Ayling, but I cannot confirm this date, but we are not talking about players that are going to be coming back soon.”
A video posted by the club on Twitter would suggest their returns are not far away, however, as they could be seen undergoing some intense routines at Thorp Arch.
Having Ayling back will be a welcome boost for Bielsa, as the £2.25m-rated (as per Transfermarkt) right-back’s absence has left the Argentine short of options in that position, with Dallas his only recognised option outside of natural centre-halves and midfielders.
The Whites head coach was left fretting last week when he was forced to substitute the Northern Ireland international off against Brentford, fearing for the 28-year-old’s availability to face Stoke.
Having averaged 2.2 tackles, 1.2 interceptions and 1.5 clearances in his 40 Championship appearances last season (WhoScored), there will have been concerns about his absence, however Dallas seems to have calmed any nerves there may have been as he has managed to achieve a solid 1.6 tackles, 0.8 interceptions and two clearances in the first five games of the season so far.
Ayling will clearly face a fight to earn back his previously-secured spot in Bielsa’s plans, but it will be a widely welcomed situation in West Yorkshire.
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