Bank Holiday Monday sees Neil Harris' Millwall make the trip to the Midlands to face Dean Smith's Aston Villa at Villa Park.
With the Lions desperate for three points to get away from the relegation zone, a trip to a side who has won nine league games in a row isn't the place that Neil Harris would ideally want to visit. With only three games to go and with the Villains being six points clear of seventh place Bristol City, Villa are all but confirmed a second successive finish in the play-offs. Millwall find themselves only three points clear of the Championship bottom three and will be desperate for any kind of points return to put more daylight between them and the trapdoor.
The league head-to-head results between the two over the years have been identical, with seven wins each and seven draws between the two. With the Lions winning the earlier fixture this season between the two, Neil Harris will be eager for that result to be replicated.
Haven't we met before?...
Aston Villa 0-0 Millwall, Saturday 9th December 2017 - A dogged and battling performance from Millwall saw the away side pick up an unlikely away point and see substitute goalkeeper David Martin secure a clean sheet. The Lions had chance to take the lead when Jed Wallace came close and Lee Gregory rattled the Villa crossbar, but it was a well earned draw for Neil Harris' side who stayed in 17th place.
Man-in-form Tammy Abraham misses this fixture for the home side after injuring himself in the victory against relegated Bolton Wanderers.
Shaun Hutchinson remains a doubt with illness and Tom Bradshaw remains Millwall’s only other long-term absentee. Neil Harris will be closely monitoring the fitness of Ben Thompson who withdrew in the first half of the draw with Brentford with a suspected hamstring injury.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
A fantastic midfielder who has enough talent and ability to flourish at the highest level, Grealish is the glue that holds the Villa side together and has an impressive six goals and six assists to his name. A player that pulls the strings and also being granted the club captaincy at just twenty-three years of age, Grealish will continue to get better and better and has a bright future in the game.
WHO ARE YA?
For this week’s ‘Who Are Ya?’ we sit back down with Sean King, an Aston Villa fan who has appeared on TalkSport throughout the season discussing all things Villa. This week we ask Sean what it's like to be a Villa fan after such a great run, how good a job Dean Smith has done since taking over and what he thinks the score will be.
1. Nine wins in nine! Not too bad going, how would you sum up the season so far?
It has been a bit of a rollercoaster! We started very slowly under Bruce, which ultimately ended in his sacking. We started really well under Smith who completely changed the philosophy and the way we play. Unfortunately Grealish and Tuanzebe got injured and it really halted our momentum and the system didn’t seem to work as well without them. Since Grealish has come back we’ve looked unstoppable and everyone has lifted their game. Reaching the playoffs seemed out of reach 8 weeks ago and now it looks highly likely we will be there. If we win tomorrow it will be a new club record so hopefully we can keep it going!
2. Dean Smith has done a great job and not only stabilised, but re-steered the ship in the right direction. Just how good has the manager been?
Having Dean Smith as ‘head coach’ as he likes to be referred to has been a real breath of fresh air. We now play attacking free flowing football which is a contrast to the negative, defensive approach we have been used to. The players seem to have bought into his methods and it’s really starting to pay off. He is a Villa fan himself so he really understands the club and I think this has helped too. He’s had a lot of injuries to contend with, particularly in defence; but we’ve come through it and hopefully the season ends in promotion.
3. Jack Grealish is one of the star men for Villa this year. How important has he been for you?
He has been vital, he is a joy to watch and he is too good for the league. When Grealish plays he provides the space for other players like McGinn and Hourihane to have a bigger impact on the game. But since he has been made captain he has taken it in his stride and he has the ability to create something out of nowhere. We aren’t a one man team which was proven in our win against playoff contenders Bristol City, but it is no coincidence that our change in form has been since he has been back in the team.
4. The earlier fixture at The Den saw Millwall run out 2-1 winners. How do you think the game at Villa Park will go?
Yes, an away day I’ll try and forget. We had a makeshift defence with Bree and Hutton and a caretaker manager at the time so it wasn’t a great time for us. Millwall is always a tough game as you are very dangerous from set pieces and at the moment you are fighting for your lives. I’ll go for 2-1 to Villa with a nervous last 10 minutes.
5. Which player(s) do Millwall need to look out for?
Grealish or McGinn. Both can cause problems in different ways and most teams we’ve played recently have struggled to deal with them.
6. What will the score be?
A tight game but I think we will win 2-1. Abraham will be missing so he will be a loss but I think we will come through.
PREDICTION: ASTON VILLA 1-1 MILLWALL
This will be a tight, tight game and Villa are on a fantastic run, but their winning streak has to end eventually and Neil Harris will be looking for a response after the disappointing home draws with QPR and Brentford. I do not see the Lions winning at Villa Park, but I can see it being a score draw.
Come on you Lions.