MARCELO BIELSA says Luke Ayling is still playing a crucial role for Leeds United as the defender recovers from ankle surgery.
Ayling received a kick to his ankle in training before United's first pre-season friendly against York City with the 27-year-old subsequently going under the knife.
Leeds announced at the end of July that Ayling was looking set to miss the first few games of the season and whilst unable to offer an expected date for his comeback, Bielsa said even now the defender is playing a pivotal role.
"He's in the normal process of the recovery that he is going to have," said Whites head coach Bielsa.
"He's very close to us even when he is not playing and he's a key player for the spirit of the team more than the very clear football skills that he has.
"We can overcome the difficulty when he doesn't play but for us it's hard if we are without him giving his support to the team."