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Terry faces court over racism allegations

John Terry

By Reuters

Chelsea and England captain John Terry will face claims that he racially abused Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match in October when his case comes before a London court on Wednesday.

Lawyers for Terry, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, are expected to enter a plea on his behalf before a district judge at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court at 1000 local time (1000 GMT).

If Terry pleads not guilty, the case is expected to be adjourned until a later date. It is not clear if he will appear in person at what will be a high-profile hearing.

In December, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) ordered Terry to be prosecuted for a "racially aggravated public order offence" over comments allegedly made to Ferdinand in an on-field exchange during Chelsea's 1-0 defeat.

The CPS took action after video of the incident was posted on the Internet and a member of the public complained that Terry had used allegedly racist language when speaking to Ferdinand.

Terry could be fined up to £2,500 ($3,900) if found guilty, which is only a fraction of his weekly wage, but such a verdict could have an impact on his lucrative sponsorship deals and relationship with Chelsea team mates drawn from around the globe.

Allegations of racial abuse have cast a shadow over the Premier League this season. Liverpool's Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra during a match in October in a case dealt with by the football authorities.

Chelsea Football Club has stood by Terry, who as the long-serving club captain is adored by the Blues fans for his footballing commitment and passion on the pitch.

Terry missed Chelsea's match against Swansea on the eve of the court case with a knee injury and coach Andres Villas-Boas said on Monday he would consider giving Terry time away from his football commitments to clear his name if it was needed.

Allegations against the England captain come at an awkward time with just over four months until the Euro 2012 championship begins in June.

Until recently, Terry was expected to form England's central defensive partnership with Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand, the older brother of QPR defender Anton.

"I will fight tooth and nail to prove my innocence," Terry said in December after CPS announced plans to prosecute him.