Leeds United have suffered another major blow with the news that right-back Luke Ayling will miss the rest of the season after an operation on his injured ankle.
Ayling underwent surgery yesterday to repair damaged cartilage sustained during United’s goalless draw with Nottingham Forest on New Year’s Day.
The defender limped from the field during the first half against Forest and despite both he and head coach Thomas Christiansen suggesting that the damage was not serious, further examinations forced Ayling to go under the knife.
The setback follows on from the loss of Samuel Saiz to a six-match suspension for spitting at Newport County midfielder Robbie Willmott during Sunday’s FA Cup third-round defeat at Rodney Parade.
Saiz’s ban will run until the final week of February and Ayling is not expected to make his return until Leeds begin pre-season training around the beginning of July.
A statement issued by Leeds this morning said: “Luke Ayling faces the rest of the season on the sidelines following surgery on an ankle injury sustained in our New Year’s Day game against Nottingham Forest.
“The 26-year-old right back, who signed a new long term deal with the Whites in the summer, has been an important part of Thomas Christiansen’s first eleven this season.”
Leeds are already short of options at full-back and Ayling’s absence has heightened the importance of United tying up a deal for Club Brugge left-back Laurens De Bock.
Gaetano Berardi has played on the left side of defence for most of this season but is likely to switch to right-back following Ayling’s operation. De Bock is close to completing a move to Leeds having undergone a medical yesterday.
Leeds have the right to recall young right-back Lewie Coyle from his year-long loan at Fleetwood Town during the January window but have made no move to do so yet.
Ayling enjoyed an impressive first year at Elland Road last season after signing from Bristol City in the summer of 2016 and despite some mixed form this term, Leeds tied him to a new four-year contract in October.