After a disappointing midweek draw with Wigan Athletic on Tuesday night, it's a an away trip to St. Andrew's this weekend as Gary Rowett takes his Millwall side to face his former side, Birmingham City.
Putting a positive slant on the 2-2 draw at The Den with the Latics, the Rowett reign has seen Millwall take 10 points from a possible 15 and two wins and a draw from the Lions' last three games. After defeating Swansea City in Wales, the South London side also have shaken the away day albatross from around their necks and will go into this game confident of building on their recent good run. Birmingham City find themselves in the bottom half of the table, but only a point behind the Lions, so they will be eager of recording the three points also so that they can climb up the Championship table.
The league head-to-heads is in the home teams favour, as their 18 wins outnumbers Millwall's 13 and nine draws between the two. The Midlands side have not beaten the Lions since October 2013 and with an important three points up for grabs for both teams, this game could swing either way.
Haven't we met before?...
Birmingham 0-1 Millwall, Saturday 17th February 2018 – A single goal from Fred Onyedinma secured a 1-0 win for the Lions and recorded a third away victory in a row for Neil Harris' side. Aside from George Saville's effort that was cleared off the goal line, it was the home side who dominated and Birmingham had an impressive 15 shots at goal, but it was only in second half injury time that one of these chances was on goal. This victory saw Millwall record a league double over the Blues and remain in 14th place on 42 points.
Birmingham City captain is back in contention after finishing a recent three match ban due to being sent off against Cardiff City. One player who will miss this game through suspension is Alvaro Gimenez, who has to sit this one out after picking up his fifth yellow card of the campaign against Sheffield Wednesday.
Goalkeeper Frank Fielding continues to be out for the Lions, as does Ryan Leonard who is also still recovering. Tom Elliott is fighting his way back to full fitness, but will not feature in this game. Jason McCarthy is still in the treatment room after his recent toe ligament damage and Shane Ferguson also could miss this game due to a recent injury.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
After the hype that surrounded his signing, the tall forward has had a mixed start to his Lions career and has spent the last few weeks starting games on Millwall's bench. Although he may not be the most mobile or pacy forwards in the league, his goals at crucial times against Charlton and Wigan have shown that the former Fulham and QPR man can change a game when he is brought into the mix. Whether he plays from the first minute or comes on during the second half, the Millwall forward will be looking to add to the five goals he already has in this 2019/20 campaign.
WHO ARE YA?
This week, we sit back down with Rich Swainson, a Birmingham City season ticket holder and blogger. This week we ask Rich, how he thinks the season is going, the reaction that Gary Rowett may expect back at St. Andrew's and which players Millwall need to look out for.
1. It’s been a mixed start for Birmingham this season and you currently find yourself in 15th place. How do you think the campaign has gone so far?
As ever at Blues, we never have a season without some turmoil. After last season (transfer embargo and points deduction) we were looking forward to a steady season of improvement under Garry Monk. That went well. So we were back to square one with a new guy in charge - Pep Clotet. And a significant change in playing style coupled with new players arriving (several from Spain as part of a Spanish revolution at Blues). So it’s been a season of adapting to a lot of new things. This takes time. So we are in transition right now. But, slowly, I think, we are heading in the right direction. Hopefully!
2. You’ve scored 18 goals which is statistically a goal a game, but you have conceded 23. Why has the defence been so shaky this season?
Mainly because we are using our LB and RB as attacking wingbacks which leaves our flanks more exposed - especially to fast wingers and counterattacks.
3. It’s the return of Gary Rowett this weekend, do Birmingham fans still have fond memories of the Millwall boss?
A lot of fans turned on him after he was sacked by the board. This was because of (unproven) rumours of him looking for other jobs. That was a few years ago now so their animosity has dissipated, especially after Garry Monk’s verbal attack on Pep Clotet this week!
4. You have only won one in your last five, are you looking over your shoulder yet, or do you think there’s still enough breathing space?
We’re used to it. I think we’ve escaped relegation on the last day, in the 3 of the last 5 seasons. But we have a much larger squad and more talented (Che Adams aside of course) than last season. If we can get a decent striker on board in January, I’m confident we’ll really climb that table.
5. This is always an exciting game when Millwall and Birmingham meet, how do the Blues fans see this one?
Millwall have a single point more than Blues and we have had 2 losses and 2 draws since our last win. Rowett sides are usually decent defensively so it depends how attacking his side will be in the day. If Blues can spark our (extremely) creative midfield (Crowley, Villalba, Bellingham and Sunjic) then they can cause mayhem. But a lack of dangerous strikers is our biggest weakness which is why our defenders have scored 4 or 5 goals this season. I’ll go for a narrow 1-0 to Blues.
6. Who do Millwall need to look out for?
Danny Crowley is a superbly creative and agile midfielder - keep an eye on our No.7. But our most talented player is Frenchman Maxime Colin - our RB. You’ll see him up and down the right wing, cutting in, shooting, defending and creating chances for the strikers. Seriously - he’s the player to keep an eye on.
PREDICTION: BIRMINGHAM CITY 1-1 MILLWALL
Although Gary Rowett will be looking for a reaction from his side and Millwall have strengthened the defence since his arrival, the back-line is still prone to errors which at Championship level you get punished for. Birmingham are not playing with an air of confidence at the moment and are also likely to make mistakes which the likes of Tom Bradshaw will exploit, so I can see this game ending in a score draw.
Come on you Lions.