Millwall's last league game before this weekend's FA Cup quarter final sees Neil Harris' side make the trip to the Midlands to face Garry Monk's Birmingham City at St. Andrew's.
Although there has been a minor blip in recent weeks, the Blues have had an impressive season compared to their recent campaigns and find themselves comfortably in mid-table on eleven points, only one point behind their local rivals Aston Villa and only five points behind the play-off places. Millwall continue to be nervously close to the bottom three and have lost their last four consecutive games for the first time ever under Neil Harris. A lacklustre and uninspiring performance at Bolton Wanderers resulted in a 2-1 away defeat and leaves the Lions only one point above the Championship trap door.
The head-to-heads between the two have seen Birmingham be the more victorious with eighteen league wins, bettering Millwall's twelve and nine draws. The Lions, however, are undefeated in their last two away visits at St. Andrew's with two convincing victories and Neil Harris will be desperate to make this a hat-trick.
Haven't we met before?...
Birmingham 0-1 Millwall, Tuesday 10th February 2015 – It was a second half strike from club captain, Alan Dunne that saw third from bottom Millwall claim a vital three points and put Ian Holloway's side level with Brighton and Hove Albion in 21st. The Lions could have took the lead earlier when Martyn Woolford's first half effort clipped the crossbar and although a late Jonathan Grounds effort also rattled the woodwork, Millwall held on for their first victory at St. Andrew's since 1968.
Gary Gardner is available for Birmingham again after the Aston Villa loanee missed last Sunday's derby. Maxime Colin remains out with and injury and will miss the Wednesday night clash.
Tom Bradshaw and defender Murray Wallace are Millwall's only absentees through injury. Ben Amos is available again for contention after sitting out the previous game with his parent club due to the terms of his loan agreement.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
He may have had a slow start to the 2018-19 season, but Adams has had a fantastic run of form since the turn of the year and currently has twenty-one goals and four assists in all competitions this season. January and February were impressive months for the young striker with goals in five consecutive games and the first-half hat-trick he scored away at Queens Park Rangers secured a 4-3 victory in London for the Blues. Still only 22 years old, Evans' best years are ahead of him and with the Lions leaking goals for fun at the moment, this could be a long evening for the Millwall back-line.
WHO ARE YA?
For this week’s ‘Who Are Ya?’, we sit back down with 'We Are Birmingham' and speak with Mark Watson. This week we ask Mark how he thinks the season is going so far, can he see a similar to result to the earlier fixture at The Den at the start of the season and which players do Millwall Football Club need to look out for...
1. You are sitting nicely in the mid-table and only a handful of points off the play-offs. How has this season been for you so far?
Non-footballing antics aside, it's been pretty damn fantastic. After fighting relegation for the last two seasons, the fact that we are even in the top half of the table is bloody phenomenal. I can honestly say that no one is more surprised by our league position than our own fans but with each passing week our self-belief rises and the tongue-in-cheek comments of "what if...?" are slowly becoming a bit more serious.
2. Did well at Swansea, was unlucky with Leeds and sacked controversially at Boro. After recently celebrating a year in charge, what is the fan’s view on Garry Monk?
Is 'God' too strong of a word? I'm not a religious man by any means but I've always been told that only a God can perform miracles and what that man has done so far with such a bare-bones squad is akin to the work of a deity.
Joking aside, Monk gets us. That's a phrase you'll hear a lot around Birmingham and it's almost hard to explain. The man has totally bought into the ethos of Birmingham City and has endeared himself to the fans since day one. Along with James Beattie and Pep Clotet (his disciples, if you will) he's restored the morale and belief in both the squad and the fans. Two things that were severely damaged by Steve Cotterill's reign of misery.
3. Your recent form hasn’t been great and you have lost three in the last five. Has the foot been taken off the gas slightly or were you just beaten by the better sides?
I don't think we've taken our foot off the gas as such, but I do think we're struggling with such a shallow squad. I'm not a big believer in footballers being "tired" (they're professional athletes after all!) but I do think things may have gone a little stale. Monk and co like to play a fast, counter-attacking style and that's been effective for us in the first half of the season. As the weeks tick by though, clubs have done their research and found that we don't actually have a plan B. We don't have that killer sub on the bench and we really rely on our starting 11 remaining fully fit and fully motivated each week because there isn't really anyone else waiting to step into their shoes.
4. The earlier fixture at The Den saw Birmingham be comfortable winners over the Lions. Can you see the result being similar?
That all depends on how the boys will react to losing against them lot down the road last Sunday. Although we were still in that game right up until the death, I can only assume that Monk and his staff have shared their disappointment with the dressing room and given them a bit of a kick up the arse. Losing to a superior Villa (said through gritted teeth) is not the worst result on paper but the lads know how much that game means to the city and if they dwell on it for too long, we may be starting Wednesdays game on a mental back foot.
5. Che Adams has been in phenomenal form and has 21 goals in all competitions so far this season. How dangerous is he as an attacker and is the reason you are not higher up the table due to defensive frailties or other players not chipping in on the goal front?
Ah, now that's two questions in one! Firstly, Che has been absolutely incredible for us this season. I was quite critical of him last year as I could see he had great potential but he just wasn't delivering on the pitch. He's really hit the ground running this season though and is finally proving himself to be the prolific striker that we always knew he could be.
As for why we aren't higher, well that's due to our crazy number of draws and dropped points at the start of the campaign. I don't think we quite realised how good this squad actually was back in September and we didn't kill off teams when we had the chance. There are so many games that we should have won and arguably played the opposition off the park. West Brom, Norwich, Swansea; we ran riot over most of the big teams but we almost lacked that extra bit of self belief required to close the match out.
6. Apart from Adams, which players do Millwall need to look out for?
I'd warn everyone to look out for Kieftenbeld - or Dutch Mike as we call him. Not for any footballing reasons, more as a matter of health and safety since the guy has a lust for blood and is a red card waiting to happen! Aside from Mike, we have our record signing in Jota who will either be at the top of a diamond or sitting on the wing. Although he's not the most consistent of players, on his day he can turn a game upside down. He seems to favour playing a more central role but that doesn't always fit into our style of play. Look out for his cutting runs towards the D as he'll either look for a sharp through ball to Che or an opening on goal for himself.
7. What do you think the score will be?
I don't think it will be a comfortable win by any means, but I do think that we'll have a point to prove after our derby day disappointment and would hope that a 2 - 0 win is not beyond our grasp. Millwall aren't on a great run at the moment so a game against an out-of-form side is coming at the right time for us.
However this same out-of-form side beat Derby and Everton recently which just goes to show that absolutely anything is possible with Championship teams. This is the greatest and toughest league in the world for a reason!
PREDICTION: BIRMINGHAM CITY 1-1 MILLWALL
There's no point beating around the bush, Millwall are in deep trouble at the moment and are desperate for any kind of positive result to try and turn their season round. With not many games to go and near the bottom of the table, any points on the board are precious and although Neil Harris will be looking for the win and to put a cushion between his side and the bottom three, I can see this being an away score draw.
Come on you Lions.