So, this is the one many of us have been waiting for. Sure, we have played against the big boys of Middlesbrough, Derby County and Swansea City, but this is the one that gets the juices flowing. When the fixture list comes out, this is one of the first our eyes magnetise towards and the one you get a shudder when the game gets closer. Leeds United at home.
Considering there is 206 miles between The Den and Elland Road, this has all the feel of a local derby. Regardless to how big Leeds think they are and what crest of a wave they are riding, the feeling is mutual and the Yorkshire side will be desperate to get one over on the Lions who did a league double over them last season.
The bragging rights for this fixture have remained in Bermondsey over recent years, with United’s last victory in South London being back in March 2012 when a Ross McCormack goal was enough to separate the two sides. Leeds have performed well so far this season and currently sit top of the Championship tree on goal difference, two points clear of third place Sheffield United with 14 points.
United will go into this game as favourites and many say that the Whites will finally stand up to the hostility from the home fans, but that’s exactly what was said last year when then-coach Thomas Christiansen’s side took to the field…
Haven't we met before?...
Millwall 1-0 Leeds United, 16th September 2017 – Aiden O’Brien found the back of the net with the only goal in a game which was dominated by the Lions. Winning the three away games prior to this fixture, Leeds came into this clash confident of getting the three points and putting more daylight at the top of the table, but Millwall totally outclassed their northern rivals. The Lions were by far the better side, having six shots on-target compared with Leeds, whose toothless efforts resulted in only the one shot off-target. The score-line was generous for United, as Steve Morison had a goal ruled out for offside against his former club and Jed Wallace hit the post from just outside the penalty area.
Millwall are still without Shaun Hutchinson who remains side lined with injury. The international break has been positive for the South London side with both Shaun Williams and Aiden O’Brien finding the back of the net for the Republic of Ireland, so Neil Harris will be hoping the duo can carry this form into this league fixture if selected. January record signings Tom Bradshaw and Ryan Leonard will be looking to start the game, and although Ben Amos conceded two against Swansea City, he may retain his place in front of Jordan Archer.
Leeds have been on fire this season, but the league leaders seem to have been struck by an injury crisis at the wrong time. Marcelo Bielsa has come out in the press recently and stated that Leeds have solutions to their striker shortage, but Kemar Roofe and Patrick Bamford will be big losses for the away team. Influential midfielder Pablo Hernandez who has already scored three goals this season looks set to miss the fixture also.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
Since signing from Bristol City in 2016, the versatile defender has already racked up 70 appearances for Leeds and has become a firm fan favourite at Elland Road. A lot has been made of Ayling’s comments before this fixture, with the right-back saying that the Yorkshire side have now become fitter, thinner and leaner since Marcelo Biesla joined the club in the summer. All eyes will be on Ayling as he stated that although the side travelling to South Bermondsey is not too dissimilar from that which were defeated last season, their mentality has changed, there is a whole new team spirit and they do not care about how they performed in the 1-0 loss last September. Let’s see if Leeds’ vice-captain will put his money where his mouth is…
Who are ya?!
For this week’s ‘Who are ya?’, we sit down with my marathon running, Leeds United supporting friend and the aptly named, Leeds Runner Col. Col has a half marathon personal best of just under 90 minutes, so he will be hoping that the Whites will be able to do the job over the Lions in a similar time...
1. There is a feel good factor around Leeds at the moment and although previous seasons have stated well, this campaign feels different. Why is this?
I'm cautiously optimistic this could finally be our year but it's very early days. There's certainly a feel-good factor around the club at the moment. Bielsa has made a big impact on the squad. Players look rejuvenated and we're playing good football. Can we maintain it? Who knows?
2. Luke Ayling is confident going into this fixture and believes the hoodoo Millwall seem to have over Leeds at The Den may be gone. Do you share his confidence?
Can't speak for the players but having seen us lose so many times at The New Den over the years, I kind of fear Millwall.
The Millwall players and fans always seem to be really up for this particular game. It almost feels like a local derby.
3. How is this fixture and Millwall as a club really viewed by Leeds and their fans?
Many Leeds fans don’t like Millwall in all honesty, so this fixture does have added importance. Rivalry has built up over recent years and there’s been a bit of animosity between the two sets of fans.
For me, it’s just another fixture we have to overcome. Been to Millwall 7 times and I enjoy the atmosphere. It’s always a tough place to visit. I’m sure away fans & players will get a warm reception...
4. Patrick Bamford is facing a spell out on the side lines. Is he a big miss and how has he settled in?
Patrick Bamford has had a slow start, but it often takes time for new players to settle. He’s come off the bench and not really given the manager many selection predicaments.
His injury is a loss because as a squad, we are threadbare up front.
5. What players do Millwall need to look out for?
Leeds have been playing some brilliant attacking football. Players to look out for are -
Pablo Hernández has been a revelation since his arrival. Master passer and set piece specialist. He’s a very clever footballer.
Luke Ayling’s has been Mr Consistent. Solid defender and his marauding runs forward cause plenty of problems. He’s been a tremendous signing.
Kammar Roofe has started the season in blistering form. He’s added goals and consistency to his game. Recent Championship player of the month award was perfect reward.
Samuel Sáiz is another danger man. Creative footballer with an eye for goal. On his day he’s one of the best players in the Championship - a real box of tricks.
6. What do you think the score will be?
History shows it’s never easy going to The New Den. We’ll have to silence the home crowd. It’ll be battle for sure but we have enough quality in the team to win this one. Result prediction - Millwall 1 Leeds 2.
PREDICTION: MILLWALL 1-0 LEEDS UNITED
Get the statistics, gather the previous meetings and grab that well thumbed-down form guide. Once you have these, open the nearest window and chuck it out as you can never call a Millwall vs. Leeds United game. Leeds United have been playing well and would’ve been confident going into this clash, but with an injury hit front line and with The Den sold-out, I can see Neil Harris’ side just nicking it. Chopper will be desperate to the put the recent defeats behind him and there’s something about this fixture that just brings out the best of the home side and their fans. A 1-0 win for me for Millwall.
Come on you Lions.