15:00, Saturday 13th January, The Den
Millwall welcome Alex Neil's Preston North End to The Den for this Saturday's Championship fixture. The two sides face off after two high scoring FA Cup third round games, with Millwall being 4-1 victors over Barnsley and Preston being 5-1 away winners against Wycombe Wanderers.
Preston are currently three points off the play-off places in 9th place, but have only two wins from their last five Championship games, drawing two and losing one of the other three. Millwall are in a similar run of inconsistency winning two of their last five games, but they have lost two of these five fixtures.
The form guide is in Millwall's favour who are undefeated against Preston in their last four games, and the last Championship game between the two at The Den resulted in a 4-0 victory for the Lions in the 2010-11 season.
LAST TIME OUT
MILLWALL 4-1 Barnsley - A slow start for Millwall resulted in the Lions being 1-0 down early on, but a much improved second half saw Millwall progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup. Millwall's second string and academy players impressed with Aiden O'Brien, Ben Thompson and Fred Onyedinma all on the score sheet.
Wycombe 1-5 PRESTON NE - Preston were comfortable winners over the Chairboys, with the only goal conceded coming from an unlucky deflected cross. Wycombe were a potential banana skin for the Lilywhites, but they showed their class and easily progressed to the next round.
Millwall (4-4-2): Archer; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith; Wallace, Saville, Williams, O'Brien; Gregory, Morison;
Although there were plenty of goals in the cup game, I can see Neil Harris returning to his tried and tested eleven for this league fixture. Tom Elliott will have a late fitness test to determine whether he is fit. However, whether he passes or not, he will not make the starting line-up.
Preston NE (4-2-3-1): Maxwell; Clarke, Huntington, Davies, Woods; Johnson, Pearson; Barkhuizan, Harrop, Robinson; Hugill;
As with the Lions, I can see Preston going back to a proven league side, who last time out were 3-2 away losers to Middlesbrough. Alex Neil will put out his strongest side, and although Louis Moult is back in training after a hamstring injury, he will be unlikely to feature.
KEY BATTLE: GEORGE SAVILLE (MILLWALL) VS DANIEL JOHNSON (PRESTON NORTH END)
Along with Jed Wallace, George Saville is Millwall's main threat and if you keep George quiet, then Millwall find it hard to link up the back line with our centre forwards. Johnson has been an ever present for Preston and has two goals this season, and his seven yellow cards in these twenty-two games shows he is not scared to get stuck in.
There have been times when it has been asked whether Millwall have strength in depth. When there have been injuries or lack of form, do we have the players in reserves to step up and take the place of an eleven who have made those positions their own? After last week's performance there is an argument that there is, with Ben Thompson in particular taking the plaudits. Will Chopper take a gamble with these players who are chomping at the bit to get out there if the game is not going our way?
Can Preston NE break the hoodoo?
Millwall are somewhat of a bogey team for Preston, but this is not the Simon Grayson-type side who just grinded out results or settled for away draws. Alex Neil's sides play good, attractive football and Neil was nominated for manager of the month for Preston's good run in December. Only Wolves, Derby and Bristol City have lost fewer Championship games than Preston this season.
PREDICTION: MILLWALL 1-1 PRESTON NORTH END
I can see both teams cancelling each other out in a close and entertaining game. Both sides can score goals, but both are reliable at the back. If this was an away fixture for Millwall, I could see Preston nicking it. But as we all know, Millwall are a different beast at home. Come on you Lions.