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Championship

Giuseppe Bellusci: From Leeds United’s public enemy to Serie A promotion fight

The Italian defender was never popular at Leeds but is certainly helping Palermo.

Mathew Nash

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It is hard to think of a player less popular from the Massimo Cellino era at Leeds United than centre-back Giuseppe Bellusci. The Italian was signed from Catania in the summer of 2014 and arrived with a good reputation. A former Italian under-21 international he has performed at the highest level in his homeland and Leeds appeared to have a good signing on their hands.

What transpired, was a player who had talent, but lacked the mental aptitude to survive at Elland Road.

Often making costly errors at the back he also rubbed Leeds fans up the wrong way with his body language and attitude on the pitch. A moment that sticks out in many a Leeds fan’s memory is when he took a free-kick opportunity away from club darling Lewis Cook. He stepped up intently, only to fire a stupid effort away from any sort of danger.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Bellusci was more known for giving away stupid penalties and being Leeds United fan’s least favourite player than for anything else he did at Elland Road.

He was eventually loaned to Empoli in 2016 and, last summer, headed to Palermo on a permanent deal. His departure was warmly received by the Leeds fans, who were happy to see the back of him.

However, whilst Leeds’ promotion push lies in tatters, Bellusci could be heading to Serie A this summer.

(Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)

The central defender has been a regular for Palermo this season who recently leapfrogged Frosinone into the second automatic promotion spot in the Italian second-tier. With just eight league games left for the Sicilian side, Bellusci and co are confident they can do what it takes to earn promotion back to the Italian top-flight this summer.

Leeds fans do not miss Bellusci. But seeing him doing so well in his post-Elland Road career must irk slightly.

As Leeds prepare to finish in a forgettable mid-table, Bellusci could help Palermo to meetings with Juventus, Roma and AC Milan next season.

That’s quite the turnaround from being Elland Road’s public enemy number one.

Sports journalist based in Bristol. Previously spent five years writing for HITC Sport. Everton fan for my sins.

Blackburn Rovers

Bradley Dack will be the Championship’s hottest property this season

The Blackburn playmaker has impressed in the opening weeks of the new season.

Liam Thomas

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Bradley Dack
Photo: Getty Images

Despite drawing their two first fixtures in the Championship this season, Blackburn have one of the league’s hottest properties in their ranks with 24-year-old midfielder Bradley Dack.

Dack joined Blackburn from Gillingham in 2017 and helped the Lancashire club’s promotion push to the Championship from League one last season, hitting the back of the net 18 times.

Dack’s talents won’t be news to any followers of the lower leagues with the creative midfielder picking up League One Player of the Year last season and in the 2015/16 campaign.

Tony Mowbray’s star man’s early season exploits seem to suggest he will be doing a lot of the same in the Championship this season.

Dack has been directly involved in 16 goals in his last 14 games for Blackburn in all competitions (nine goals, seven assists).

Impressive stats from the playmaker, whose talents were on full display in Blackburn’s Tuesday night Carabao Cup demolition job of Carlisle, where he ran the show, scoring and assisting twice in his sides 5-1 win.

If Dack continues this kind of form, it’s hard to see past any Premier League teams making a move for the attacking midfielder, especially if he receives the end of the season accolades after this campaign.

However, the 24-year-old’s current deal with Blackburn runs until 2021 and prizing him away from Ewood Park may take a considerable fee and a lot of persuasion.

It remains to be seen whether Dack will win the Championship Player of the Year award come the end of the season, but his early season form suggests that the midfielder is more than capable of doing so.

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Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest must loan out academy graduate Joe Worrall

The Reds have a proud history of nurturing players from their own academy.

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Joe Worrall
Photo: Getty Images

Nottingham Forest have made a solid start to the 2018/19 campaign with the Reds winning one and drawing two of their first three matches, playing some eye-catching football in the process.

Having spent heavily in the summer it looks as though the club’s hierarchy have tasked boss Aitor Karanka with making a genuine attempt at reaching the Premier League for the first time in over 20 years.

Given the amount of money spent it does seem as though some of last year’s players might be nothing more than fringe operatives this season and that could see many of the players deemed surplus sent out on loan before the end of the month. .

One man who could fall foul of Forest’s recruitment drive is academy graduate Joe Worrall, with the youngster failing to make any of Karanka’s squads so far this season after recovering from a knee problem which saw him miss the back end of last season.

The 21-year-old has played just over 50 times for the Reds since making his debut in October 2016 in an away game against Reading and there has been enough from his performances to suggest that he can become a regular in the Forest team at some stage.

After his latest injury setback, however, it is vitally important that Worrall gets some games under his belt and after Forest signed Michael Dawson, Tobias Figueriredo and Michael Hefele during the summer, it seems extremely unlikely that the prospect will be featuring for the first-team any time soon and it might be in the club’s best interests to sort Worrall out with a club where he will play more games.

In previous years, Forest haven’t been blessed with the plethora of talent that they have within their ranks now and that perhaps means that some of the club’s very own products might have to wait for more first-team chances, particularly over the course of this season.

Worrall has the ability to definitely be seen as one for the future at the City Ground, but a loan spell does seem like the best option for his development, at least for the 2018/19 campaign.

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Fulham

One to watch: Ryan Sessegnon under the spotlight as Tottenham host Fulham

The teenager could be forced to play at left-back this weekend.

Max Cohen

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Sessegnon
Photo: Getty Images

Ryan Sessegnon’s Premier League debut did not go quite as planned.

The highly-rated 18-year-old, who took the Championship by storm the past two seasons was largely neutralised by Crystal Palace‘s Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and was denied space in the attacking areas where he is usually so dangerous.

It is still early days and it was by no means a poor performance, but revealed how the youngster must quickly adapt to the higher level of the top flight.

Sessegnon’s second ever Premier League match will come away at Tottenham Hotspur this Saturday and his performance at Wembley could go a long way in determining his success this season and later in his career.

Playing against the club he has so often been linked with will undoubtedly be difficult, providing a mental challenge that he is unlikely to have faced before.

However, perhaps the more challenging proposition will be in the footballing department. Fulham’s new left back Joe Bryan was forced off against Palace on the weekend with an injury, and is expected to be a doubt for Saturday’s fixture.

Without any true left back back-ups, Sessegnon will most likely be tasked with filling in at the left side of defence, instead of his preferred left wing position.

Against a fearsome attacking team such as Spurs, boasting the likes of Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, and Dele Alli, the 18-year-old could endure a baptism of fire in his first ever top flight start as a defender.

Sessegnon’s performance will also be illuminating as it could provide a glimpse into his future as an attacking left back– not as an out-and-out left winger.

“He is an incredible player project, with a fantastic physical capacity. People compare him to Bale, for me it’s a mix between Marcelo and Bale. I’ve used him lately in a more offensive role, but he’s ready to be left-back of a big team that constantly attacks.”

Slavisa Jokanovic speaking to Marca this summer on Sessegnon’s future position

According to his manager, Sessegnon could develop into an attack-minded defender for a ‘big-team.’

On Saturday at Wembley, Spurs supporters could catch a first glimpse of the youngster in that role in the Premier League – a role they will be hoping he can perform for the club in north London one day.

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