GIUSEPPE BELLUSCI will definitely start for Leeds United tomorrow as the Football Association continue to investigate the allegation that the Italian defender racially abused an opponent.
Norwich City’s Huddersfield-born striker Cameron Jerome claims that Bellusci aimed racist language at him during Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at Carrow Road.
Bellusci, a summer signing for £1.6m from Serie A side Catania, vehemently denies the accusation – which The Yorkshire Post understands concerns alleged use of the word ‘negro’ – and he has the full backing of United president Massimo Cellino.
Head coach Darko Milanic is also firmly behind the defender, as he revealed at yesterday’s press conference to preview the visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The media present at Thorp Arch for the weekly briefing were told by a United employee not to ask questions about the racism row due to the matter being subject to an FA investigation.
However, when asked if Bellusci would play against Wolves tomorrow, Milanic was unequivocal in replying: “Yes.”
Attempts to get the Leeds chief to elaborate were met with a refusal, Milanic adding only: “There is an investigation but I can’t talk about this.
“He is with the president and with the sporting director (Nicola Salerno).”
The FA, who have received a written report from referee Mark Clattenberg, confirmed last night that the investigation was “on-going”. Sources have indicated to this newspaper that the governing body could speak to Bellusci as early as today.
Precedent suggests there is no timescale for an investigation, with previous high-profile cases having seen the governing body deliberate for some time before making an announcement.
Away from the accusations of racism, Milanic is tomorrow hunting his first win in English football at the sixth attempt.
The Slovenian, who must decide whether to retain the diamond formation that he has favoured for much of his brief reign, will be without Souleymane Doukara due to the striker having picked up a fifth yellow card of the season in Tuesday’s draw at Carrow Road.
Steve Morison, who was deep in conversation as the pair came off the training field yesterday lunchtime, could step in, though Billy Sharp is also hoping to get the nod if fit.
Regardless of who starts up front, Milanic is expecting United to claim what has proved to be an elusive first victory at the helm.
He said: “If I see only the results, then it is not good. But if I look at how we play, I think progress is being made. We need time.
We have stability, we feel better on the field but we have to do some parts of the game better.
“I look at the progress. We played my first game at Brentford (on September 27) and we weren’t good enough. But after that, we have made steps forward. We were good in games, I saw lots of good moments, but we have to win games to get closer to the teams that are in the top half of the league.
“I expect a hard game (against Wolves), a dynamic from the game. I expect Leeds to be extremely motivated and I expect us to take three points. We need help from the fans but we have to do our best for them.
“Against Norwich, we played well in defence. But we didn’t make a lot of good attacks. It was difficult but I expect in this game that we will be very dangerous and make a game in offensive play like we were against Sheffield (Wednesday in United’s last home outing). We need to score more.”
United have scored just three goals in Milanic’s five games in charge and conceded six. Despite that, and Doukara, United’s goalscorer at Norwich being suspended, the 46-year-old insists the draw in Norfolk has given him plenty of encouragement ahead of Wolves’ visit.
He said: “I think it was a good point.
“It was extremely difficult because of them, they played well. But we played a good game too.
“I think that it will be not a lot different to every other game.
“It will be a hard game. They play in an English style with a lot of tempo.
“They have some dangerous players in the team and they are very physical. We will be prepared to run a lot, to be very motivated and to have dynamic in the game. With the support of our fans, we can do it.
“We have some problems with injury. (Rodolph) Austin was not involved in training and Billy Sharp has also (muscular) problems and that means, in this moment, I am not sure who will play.
“It is a different game because of the pressure from them. We have to run a lot without ball possession but I hope against Wolverhampton that we control the match better with a lot of possession and a lot of passes.
“We have to be prepared for the opponents putting pressure on our back four. I know and the team knows that we have to win the game.”