The Championship season is fast approaching and the opening game of the season with Preston North End is only around the corner. After a pre-season of mixed results, but respectable performances, the Lions welcome La Liga's Real Sociedad to South Bermondsey.
After victories against Concord Rangers and GIllingham away, Neil Harris' side were brought back to earth in the recent midweek 2-1 away defeat at Southend United. This slight blemish on Millwall's record will do little to dent the confidence and camaraderie that has been building at The Den and there is a togetherness that has not been seen for a while. This game will be the second in two days for the Spanish visitors as Sociedad are facing English side Nottingham Forest on Friday night.
Imanol Alguacil Barrenetxea's side are one of the bigger sides in Spain and will be a stern test for the Lions, but win, lose or draw, this will be good indicator of where Millwall are at as they go into the new season.
Haven't we met before?...
Millwall 1-0 Rayo Vallecano, Saturday 27th July 2013 - A single Steve Morison goal from the penalty spot was enough for Millwall to secure the win in Paul Robinson's testimonial. The game was a back and forwards affair with the Lions having the best chance in the first half, before the referee rewarded the home side a penalty after a Diamanka handball. Morison put the ball in the back of the net and left the 5,193 in attendance in a state of ecstasy.
Neil Harris will put out a strong side and one that will be looking to start the first Championship game of the season. One player who will not feature for Millwall is Fred Onyedinma, who Neil Harris has come out in the press recently and said will not be playing for the Lions anymore.
Sociedad will rotate their side and feature many squad players, as there are many who will feature only the day before against Forest.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
Ben Thompson had a great end to the 2018-19 season and could've arguably been Millwall's Player of the Year if he had featured for the club earlier in the campaign. With questions asked on what the formation is that Neil Harris will play, Thompson will be an integral part of the midfield line-up and with rumours he will have more of an influential role in the dressing room, all eyes will be on the young midfielder in this game.
WHO ARE YA?
For this weeks 'Who are ya?' we sit down with Fernando Moreno and the London Real Sociedad Supporters' Club. This week we ask the guys how the preseason has been so far, how they felt last season went and who the Millwall fans need to look out for.
1. Real Sociedad have got a busy preseason with Nottingham Forest on the Friday and then down in London for Millwall on the Saturday. How has preseason gone so far?
Our game against Millwall will be our fourth game of the pre season so far. We started off with a comfortable 5-0 win against local team Lagun Onak (Conference), followed by a 1-0 loss to Racing Santander, who got promoted to the Segunda Division (Championship) last season. And we’ve just equalised 2-2 against Nottingham Forest today. This is the only game I’ve seen and it was the typical pre season game. Lots of variations and substitutes. Getting match fit level more than results is what the coaching staff and players are looking for now.
2. You finished in a respectful 9th place last season and although you may not have hit the heights in previous seasons where you qualified for Europe, a top ten finish in La Liga is a good achievement. How did last season go for you?
Everyone was very excited at the start of last season. The stadium had a major renovation getting rid of the annoying running track and getting the stands closer to the pitch. But we ended up 2018 with more points gained away than at home. The manager was sacked and after the Christmas break, the B Team’s manager, Imanol Alguacil gets promoted to the first team. First game of the new year at the Bernabéu. And we won 3-1!!! We had a good run getting closer to the Europa League spots, but a few slip ups at the end left us close, but no cigar.
3. You only scored ten goals less across the whole campaign than Atletico Madrid who finished in second place, but the 46 conceded left you with a goal difference of -1. Was the defence the issue last season, or was it a more of a lack of real fire power?
We never found the balance mainly in the midfield. That with a few goalkeeper errors and misses up front condemned us in many games. There’s plenty of quality among the players, but when things don’t go your way the ball felt too heavy on their feet.
4. Tell us more about your Supporters Club, how many London based Sociedad fans do you have?
It started with a handful of us deciding we had to get together to watch the games. Our base is The Sheephaven Bay pub near Mornington Crescent tube station. At the moment we are 25 full members, but whenever a Real supporter comes visiting London and there’s a game, they always go to the pub to watch the game and have a few pints.
5. Which players do Millwall need to look out for?
Our best player is Mikel Oyarzabal, but he won’t be at The Den as he recently became European Under 21 champion and only started training a couple of days ago. Two more of our players where in Spain’s winning squad, Igor Zubeldia and former Newcastle player Mikel Merino. In defence Diego Llorente is our best player. On the right wing Zaldua is a solid full back with lots of power. And the newly promoted Aihen Muñoz on the left has a very good one to one. In the middle our main man is Illarramendi, didn’t have a good season with injuries and still recovering, but he’s very good. Zurutuza at 33 is a fans favourite with his work rate and quality. Ex Manchester United Januzaj is a very gifted player on the right, hopefully he’s consistent this year. Odegaard, on a two year loan contract from Real Madrid, is a very interesting player to watch at just 20 years of age. Newly signed Portu is one of this players who never stops running, and he scores goal. Up front big Willian Jose would be a very demanding task for your defenders. He’s one of the best holding the ball and a strong finisher. 19 year old Swedish Isak looks like a very good striker in the making.
6. What do you think the score will be?
Having the opportunity to see our beloved team in The Den and spend a good day out with the Millwall supporters would feel like a win. May football win!
PREDICTION: MILLWALL 1-1 REAL SOCIEDAD
This is the final serious game of Millwall's preseason and Neil Harris will want to finish with a bang, but Sociedad will be a tough test for the Lions. I cannot see Millwall being defeated at home against their Spanish opposition, but I can see the game ending in a draw.
Come on you Lions.