15:00, Saturday 9th December 2017, Villa Park
This is Millwall’s first game against Aston Villa since The Lions were 2-1 victors in the FA Cup in 2013, and this is also the first league encounter between the two sides since the 1989-90 season.
The records do not read well for Millwall, who have not won back-to-back Championship matches since winning three in a row in 2014 and Aston Villa have won 18 games in the 2017 calendar year.
Millwall’s form this season has been inconsistent and has had fans thinking their season tickets were actually for Thorpe Park. Along with big victories against big sides like Leeds United, Norwich City and Sheffield United, we’ve also had lows against Barnsley and Burton Albion. Millwall are yet to win on their travels this season, however Aston Villa are so big they cast a large shadow over the rest of the league and as mentioned, The Lions do well against the big sides. Will David beat Goliath again?
LAST TIME OUT
Leeds United 1-1 ASTON VILLA – Henri Lansbury’s 71st minute equaliser maintained Villa’s unbeaten run, which has now been extended to four games. Leeds were the better side in the first half and deserved their goal. Elland Road is a tough place to get any kind of result and to grab an equaliser against a United side who had been dominating the first half, shows the calibre of team that Steve Bruce has created.
MILLWALL 3-1 Sheffield United – A fantastic team performance and great individual displays from Mahlon Romeo, Jed Wallace and Lee Gregory in particular. It was a score line that flattered The Lions slightly, but the win was deserved. Millwall withstood the pressure from Sheffield United, although it was a slight momentary lapse in concentration that led to United’s goal.
(4-2-3-1): Johnstone; Hutton, Chester, Samba, Taylor; Whelan, Hourihane; Snodgrass, Onomah, Adomah; Davis
Villa are without John Terry for the game, with Mile Jedinak and Scott Hogan being assessed before the game after returning to training. Lansbury could feature from the bench if not starting, especially after grabbing Villa’s equaliser at Elland Road.
(4-4-2): Archer; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith; Wallace, Saville, Tunicliffe, Ferguson; Morison, Gregory
Neil Harris was delighted with the performance against Sheffield United and will stick with the same line up, especially with Romeo’s goal even further staking his claim for the right back position. Millwall fans will be delighted to see Shaun Williams’ name on the bench if he has recovered from fitness in time, but do not expect him to play any more than a cameo.
Key Battle: Christopher Samba (ASTON VILLA) vs Lee Gregory (MILLWALL)
Keeping Lee Gregory and Steve Morison quiet is the game plan for most of the division’s managers. Keep them quiet, then Millwall’s goal threat has gone. Although Gregory’s form has been inconsistent, as last Saturday proved he can find the net and is always a handful for any centre defender tasked with marking him. Samba is a player who boasts a wealth of experience in English and European football, but could Millwall’s number 9 be too much of a handful?
Clearing the back line
Millwall are solid at the back and show that we do have some depth in key areas. Cooper has easily slotted back in at centre half and Mahlon Romeo deputised wonderfully for the suspended Conor McLaughlin. What has become apparent in recent weeks though, is the conviction in our clearances when we do win the ball. Our defenders will win key challenges, but sloppily misplace a pass or weakly clear the ball into the feet of the opposition’s midfield. Aston Villa at home will relish these lapses in defensive concentration.
Has Lee Gregory now got his shooting boots on?
Lee Gregory’s overall performances for Millwall have been hot and cold. He plays on the defender’s shoulder better than the vast majority of strikers that Millwall has had for years. He is strong on the ball and good in the air. However, it is a striker’s job to score goals and Gregory’s consistency just isn’t there. Gregory at times misses easy one-on-ones and other efforts a striker in the Championship really should put away. That said, his goal against Sheffield United was exceptional and hopefully will be the catalyst for Lee to find the net more.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Millwall
If honest, this is more of an optimistic score line and I cannot see Millwall going to Villa Park and getting a result. I would gladly eat two servings of freezing cold humble pie and see us leave the Midlands with the three points, but there is an air of confidence around Steve Bruce’s side this year and they are rightly favourites to be promoted to the Premier League.