Jon Dahl Tomasson knows the quality of Daniel Ayala but has stressed the importance of having the central defender for as much of the season as possible.

Ayala has managed only 32 appearances across an injury-hit two seasons at Ewood Park, but is set to start the opening Championship fixture against QPR on Saturday.

The 31-year-old started the opening 14 games of last season, but then only two more, including on the final day at Birmingham City. That came after Ayala managed only 10 appearances in his debut year at the club.

Yet Ayala has shown his qualities and looks set to assume more responsibility following the departures of Darragh Lenihan and Jan Paul van Hecke whose form, along with fitness issues, kept him out of the side last season.

Tomasson told the Lancashire Telegraph: “He’s a good player, everyone knows that, but we want to see that every Saturday.

“You can’t see a good player if he’s sitting inside.

“We are having two tough sessions during the week, the boys are lying on the floor after, almost crying.

“Then we take it easy, and so far it’s been good.

“The spirit in the squad is good, we’ve had a good pre-season, everyone is fit more or less, we’ve trained well, trained hard, and we’re looking forward to the opening game at home and building that connection with the fans.”

Ayala played in three of Rovers’ friendlies, starting against Accrington Stanley, Celtic and Hartlepool United.

He played 226 minutes across pre-season and is expected to start on the opening day.

Ayala had been the source of interest from Granada, managed by his former Boro boss Aitor Karanka, earlier in the window however that never materialised into a bid.

Central defensive recruits are on Rovers’ wishlist in the remainder of the window.

So far they have missed out on Anel Ahmedhodžić and Ben Davies who joined Sheffield United and Rangers respectively.

Ayala is the only permanent signing that Rovers have made in central defence since promotion from League One.

But with Lenihan turning down the offer of a new deal to move to Middlesbrough, player of the year van Hecke returning to parent club Brighton and Ayala into the final year of his contract, it’s an area the club are looking to strengthen.

Ayala and Scott Wharton are set to be Rovers’ starting partnership against QPR this weekend, with Hayden Carter, Ash Phillips, Sam Barnes and Tyler Magloire having all featured in pre-season.

Magloire is expected to move on in this window however, despite his one-year option having been triggered in the summer.

Former loan clubs Northampton Town and Hartlepool United have both shown interest in the 23-year-old.

Meanwhile, James Brown is set to secure a loan move away from Rovers today.


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