Leeds United have been dealt a small blow to their attempts to return to their long-awaited destination of the ​Premier League. Their blow comes in the form of right-back Luke Ayling missing the remainder of the season with ankle surgery. 

Ayling underwent surgery on Tuesday after limping off the pitch during ​Leeds' goalless draw with Nottingham Forest on New Year’s Day, which at first thought weren't too serious, according to Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen.

Quoted from the ​Yorkshire Evening Post, a statement issued by Leeds 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.

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“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.”

However, with further examinations, it showed that the right-back had sustained damages to a cartilage in his ankle. The surgery will put the 26-year-old sidelined for the remainder of the season and is not expected to return until the summer's pre-season.

Leeds' loss of Ayling is further impacted by the loss of fellow player Samuel Saiz's six-match ban. Saiz was recently handed the lengthy ban after spitting at Newport County midfielder Robbie Willmott in Sunday’s FA Cup third-round defeat.

Ayling arrived at Elland Road after signing from ​Bristol City in the summer of 2016. His Leeds side currently sit in 6th position occupying the last play-off place, with only six points seperate them from the automatic promotion slot.