It's the FA Cup this weekend and those magical balls have produced the not-so-glamorous Third Round tie with fellow Championship side, Hull City.
Nigel Adkins men visited The Den not so long ago when both teams were near the foot of the table and desperate for points. The clash was a close affair which resulted in a 2-2 draw, but since then both sides have seen an upturn in form and are experiencing unbeaten runs. The Tigers have been victorious in the their last five games and rocketed to mid-table and the Lions have three wins from their last three and also put some daylight between them and the relegation zone.
The one and only FA Cup meeting between the two sides saw Hull City run out 2-0 winners up at the KC Stadium in 2009, but the meetings in the league between the two see the Tigers just edge the head-to-head with 22 wins compared to Millwall's 21 overall. With that said, anything can happen in the FA Cup and with both sides predicted to rotate their sides, this could be potentially be a goal-fest.
Haven't we met before?...
Hull City 2-0 Millwall, 24th January 2009 – Premier League side Hull City were just too strong for Kenny Jackett's Millwall in this FA Cup fixture at the KC Stadium in a scrappy game where the League One side had a slim chance of causing an upset. Millwall fielded a strong side with players such as David Forde, Alan Dunne, Jimmy Abdou, Neil Harris and Paul Robinson all featuring, but goals from Michael Turner and Ian Ashbee saw the Tigers progress to the 5th Round for the first time since 1989.
Tom Bradshaw remains as Millwall’s only long term absentee. Shaun Hutchinson will also miss this cup fixture due to a freak domestic injury. Expect a rotated side from Neil Harris with the likes of Ben Amos featuring in place of Jordan Archer, as well as Jiri Skalak also potentially coming in after several weeks in and out of the squad.
Hull's Jackson Irvine is away on international duty with Australia and Frazier Campbell looks to miss out on the game with a hamstring injury.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
Although being in and out of the side and appearing sporadically at the start of the season, the midfielder has flourished in the absence of Shaun Williams and built up an effective partnership in the middle of the park with Ryan Leonard. His goal against Nottingham Forest at the end of 2018 showed a flair that not many knew that Tunnicliffe possessed and his dogged determination, never-say-die attitude and love for a tackle has seen the midfielder receive plaudits from those in the home stands. With the form he is in, it will be a tough day for whoever he is tasked to keep quiet.
WHO ARE YA?
For this week’s ‘Who are ya?’, we sit back down with our friends, the Hull City Southern Supporters. This week we ask the what they think is the reason why the Tigers are hitting the back of the net, do they dream of a possible late promotion push and if Nigel Adkins will rotate the side or not.
1. Wow! What a turnaround! How do you feel about five wins in the last five after the start you had?
Literally no one saw it coming. It’s been surreal. The last two wins - 2-0 at Leeds then thrashing Bolton 6-0 - have probably been our most enjoyable back-to-back victories in a decade.
2. In those five games you have scored 15 goals, what has been the reason for your strikers finally lacing up their striking boots?
Quite simply, Kamil Grosicki is back playing, and playing like he wants to play for Hull City. This has created a headache for defences and more space for the likes of Bowen and Campbell.
3. When the two sides last met in the league, it was virtually a relegation six-pointer. You are now only seven points off the play-offs - dare to dream?
Not yet. We could lose Grosicki and Bowen in January. The impressive Jackson Irvine is away at the Asia Cup. Elphick has gone back to Villa on loan. I’ll not even begin to think that way until Easter at the earliest. We’ll still take survival at this point.
4. Jarod Bowen and Frazier Campbell have nineteen goals and five assists between them. Do you think Nigel Adkins will feature them in this cup fixture, or can you see someone else stepping in and the squad rotating?
I think the squad will be rotated as much as Adkins can. It’s paper thin so he might not have much room for manoeuvre. I dare say Bowen will be protected, along with Grosicki. Campbell will probably get a rest too to give a chance to someone like Dicko.
5. How do Hull City view the FA Cup? Would you like a cup run, or would you rather put your full concentration on the league?
A month ago I’d have said it’s all about survival. We’re now probably only three wins off achieving that points total, so a cup run would be very nice indeed.
6. Which player(s) do the Millwall fans need to look out for?
It’s hard to say as the big players such as Bowen and Grosicki will probably be rested. The very promising Keane Lewis-Potter, who is scoring goals for fun in the U23s, will hopefully feature at some point though.
7. What do you think the score will be?
It depends on the teams put out, but it will be a tight one again. Another draw wouldn’t surprise me - a repeat of the 2-2.
PREDICTION: MILLWALL 2-1 HULL CITY
The Tigers may be the form team going into this one, but as Millwall have a squad with more depth in their ranks, I can see this going in the home team's favour. Both sides will want the win to keep their momentum going, but with Neil Harris' words ringing in the players' ears that none of their places are safe with the January window now open, the Lions will be the more determined of the two to produce a result and progress to the next round of the cup.
Come on you Lions.