Another International break is over and league football returns to Millwall's calendar as the Lions make the short trip to the Madejski stadium to face Paul Clement's Reading.
Although Neil Harris' side hit a bit of a purple patch before some of his squad went away with their countries, both sides are at the wrong end of the Championship table and will be desperate for three points to get away from that dreaded trapdoor to League One. Reading are currently above the dotted line in 21st place on goal difference alone on nine points, whereas the Lions are one place above the Royals with a point more.
Results between the two sides over the year have seen plenty of action, with the three meetings in the league and EFL Cup last year producing nine goals in total. With the Lions gaining six points from the Biscuitmen last year, the Berkshire side will be eager to get the victory and record a first league home win against Millwall for the first time since February 2011.
Haven't we met before?...
Reading 0-2 Millwall, 3rd February 2018 – Two quick goals in the second half ensured victory for the Lions in a game that was totally dominated by the South London side. Questions were asked whether Mahlon Romeo's deflected effort would be awarded to him or Leandro Bacuna after the latter deflected the near post effort into the back of the net, but Lee Gregory's fine finish from a Steve Morison pass guaranteed the three points and secured Millwall's second away win of the season.
Millwall fans will be delighted to see Shaun Hutchinson make a return to under-23 action and after coming through the game unscathed, the defender should be available for selection if Neil Harris wants to change his winning side. Mahlon Romeo picked up a slight groin complaint whilst away on International duty with Antigua and Barbuda, but otherwise should feature for the away side.
The home side have a number of players absent for this tie with Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Saeid Ezatolahi and John O'Shea all on the sidelines for the Royals. Although first thought of as out of contention, Sam Baldock has recovered well from his injury and could feature against the Lions.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
The season may still be in it's early stages and Millwall's form may have been inconsistent as of late, but the towering centre-half has been a shining light so far for the Lions. Cooper has been rock solid at the back for the South London side and has also been on the score sheet twice and will be keen to put in a good performance against his former side. Regardless to whether he is playing alongside Murray Wallace, Byron Webster or Shaun Hutchinson, Cooper makes defending look effortless and if he is at his best for Millwall, then the Reading front line will be in for a very long afternoon.
WHO ARE YA?
For this week's 'Who Am I?', we catch up with @ElmParkRoyals. After a tricky start to the season we ask why have things changed so drastically since the Play-Off final a few years back, is Paul Clement under pressure and who the Millwall players and fans need to look out for.
1. Reading are currently sitting outside the relegation places but only on goal difference. After how close you came to promotion a couple of seasons back, what has caused the wheels to fall off so dramatically?
Basically everything has gone wrong since that Play-Off Final season. Key players have left: Danny Williams & Al Habsi. We’ve never replaced the 19 goals that Yann Kermorgant scored and covered a whole multitude of issues from the Jaap Stam era. Another key factor is Ron Gourlay our chief executive; he’s overseen a disastrous transfer and new contract policy that’s made him very unpopular with sections of our fans.
2. You have scored 15 goals in the 12 games played so far, which is a healthy amount, however the 20 conceded leaves you with a goal difference of -5. Is the problem the defence or the lack of support in front of them?
I would say that’s a combination of midfield & defence vulnerability. We’ve played multiple combinations in CM and all of them appear to lack the ability to track runners on a consistent basis. If you’ve got a CM who likes to shoot from 25 yards he will get plenty of opportunity at the MS. Closing down for more than the first 20 mins is a bit too much for most of midfielders.
3. Paul Clement only has the 2 wins in the 12 games so far, how much pressure is the manager currently under?
He’s under pressure as it’s now 4 wins from 20 matches if you include last season. I can’t say I’ve been impressed by his random selections and his insistence and playing players horribly out of form. If he was to be sacked I don’t think I would really notice. He’s borderline nonentity.
4. The Lions did a league double over the Royals last season, do you expect similar or do you think Millwall will struggle at the Madejski?
I would predict almost any team to beat us at home. We look nervous and lacking any self confidence in every match. Hardly surprising with only 3 home wins in 2018. Feel free to make that 4 on Saturday.
5. How can you see this game going quality wise? Who do the Millwall fans need to look out for?
Low quality and lacking any atmosphere? You’ve hardly set the league on fire too. Barrow, Sims, Swift & Yiadom are the key players who if anything will happen it will come from one of that lot. Luckily for you Clement won’t pick them all as he’s baffling with selections.
6. What is your score prediction?
2-1 Home win. That’s based on hope more than reality. Blatantly Jake Cooper will score...
PREDICTION: READING 0-1 MILLWALL
Both sides will be refreshed after the International break and will be eager to kick-start a slow beginning to the season. With that said, Reading have a torrid home record this year and the weight of expectation is heavy on Paul Clement's shoulders, so this will lead to another home defeat in my opinion. Millwall have performed well away from The Den over previous seasons and with a new spark injected into the side since the 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest and the 2-1 victory over Aston Villa, I can see Neil Harris' side being victorious in this one.
Come on you Lions.