Finding characters in football isn’t difficult, but finding characters that lift a whole club aren’t easy to come across. That is exactly what Luke Ayling does for Leeds United. The bubbly full-back is set to start at Aston Villa on Sunday after making a quicker return to fitness than we had expected, and what a boost.

Heading onto the festive period with injuries upon injuries is far from ideal but there is a glimmer of hope at Leeds United. As well as heading into the hectic schedule top of the league we have skipper Liam Cooper and vice-captain Luke Ayling back in contention. Jamie Shackleton has been playing at right-back the last couple of weeks and in reality he deserves to be playing because of how well he’s performed, but Ayling is without doubt the first choice right-back.

Shackleton may actually be in line for playing another role over the next couple of weeks. There is little chance that Ayling will play two games on the bounce so perhaps expect him to come in for the Blackburn game on boxing day and maybe even the Hull game a few days later. He could also be called upon in central midfield with options limited in that area. The form of Lewis Baker, recent setback for Izzy Brown and departure of Samu Saiz means we only have a handful of players in central midfield.

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Leeds have been without almost every player at some point this season barring Kalvin Phillips, Gjanni Alioski and Mateusz Klich who could all do with a rest in the near future. Of the three Klich seems to be showing a couple of signs he could do with sitting out a game or two over the next month and that could mean a big change in the dimensions of the side. Pablo Hernandez will almost certainly be playing a more central role over the next few weeks, it’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks ahead.

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