Aston Villa v Leeds United: Luke Ayling returns as Patrick Bamford misses Villa Park clash
Luke Ayling returned to Leeds United's starting line-up at Aston Villa this afternoon but Patrick Bamford was missing from the squad after withdrawing from training yesterday.
Ayling made his first appearance since injuring a knee against Nottingham Forest on October 27, recalled in place of Jamie Shackleton at right-back, but Bamford sat out of the game at Villa Park as a precaution.
The striker made a goalscoring return from knee ligament damage in Leeds’ 1-0 win at Bolton Wanderers last weekend but did not make the journey to Birmingham.
He has undergone scans and is understood to have avoided a significant setback but Bielsa opted not to risk him Leeds’ last game before Christmas.
His appearance at Bolton was his first since tearing a posterior cruciate ligament in September.
Ayling’s inclusion was one of two changes to Leeds’ starting line-up with the club searching for a sixth straight win and their best run in the league since 2007.
Winger Jack Harrison came in for Lewis Baker, allowing Pablo Hernandez to take up the number 10 role.
Villa boss Dean Smith made two alterations as his 11th-placed side tried to cut a 12-point gap to Bielsa’s in second.
James Bree replaced on-loan Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe while Jonathan Kodjia was preferred up front to Anwar El Ghazi. Jack Grealish was absent with a shin problem.
Aston Villa: Nyland, Chester, Whelan, Hutton, McGinn, Elmohamady, Bolasie, Hourihane, Bree, Kodjia, Abraham. Subs: Bunn, Hogan, Davis, Bjarnason, El Ghazi, Adomah, Revan.
Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell, Ayling, Jansson, Phillips, Douglas, Forshaw, Harrison, Hernandez, Klich, Alioski, Roofe. Subs: Huffer, Halme, Clarke, Davis, Gotts, Baker, Shackleton.
Referee: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire)