It's the season of goodwill to all and time to catch up with old friends, so what fitting fixture for Millwall other than the long travel up the M4 to face Welsh side, Cardiff City, who are now under the leadership of Millwall club legend and previous manager, Neil Harris.
The recent good run that Lions were on was halted by a home defeat last weekend to Barnsley, and the Yorkshire side took advantage of the Lions' toothless attacks by producing a sucker punch and taking the three points from Bermondsey with a 1-2 score line. Although the performance and result was disappointing, this has been a slight blemish on Gary Rowett's start as Millwall boss so far and he will be looking to put this right by defeating his predecessor. Eyebrows were raised in the Welsh capital when Harris was appointed after the resignation of Neil Warnock, but with wins against the likes of Stoke City, Nottingham Forest and Barnsley, the former Cardiff City striker has had a good start so far and has lifted the Bluebirds to 12th place, one place above Millwall on goal difference.
Whether home or away, this fixture has always been a tasty affair and the home side just edge the league head-to-heads between the two with 19 wins to Millwall's 18 and 24 draws between the two.
Haven't we met before?...
Cardiff City 0-1 Millwall, Saturday 22nd February 2005 – Danny Dichio's first-half penalty gave Millwall an important victory in an encounter that saw three red cards shown late on. The penalty was awarded after Dichio's earlier header hit James Collins' hand, and although the home side dominated the game and had the ball in the back of the net, this was disallowed for offside. In the 90th minute, defender Alan Dunne was shown red after a dangerous tackle, and the following altercations between the sides saw James Collins and David Livermore also be dismissed for the Bluebirds and Millwall, respectively.
Joe Ralls, Junior Hoilett and Joe Bennett are all doubt for this clash and one player who will certainly miss out is Sean Morrison, who is still serving his ban.
Alex Pearce and Murray Wallace should be back after missing Saturday's defeat with illness. Ben Thompson is still doubtful after his injury he sustained against Derby County at the beginning of December. Ryan Leonard and Tom Elliott remain out of contention.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
He has tried to keep all eyes off of him and said this clash won't be focused on his previous and current positions, but all attention will be firmly on the Cardiff City manager for this one. Although doing phenomenally well in South London, there were many in the stands who felt that Harris stood down at the right time and regardless to how his tenure ended, the former Millwall forward is still worshiped by the Millwall fans, and rightly so. It will be strange having Millwall's top scorer in the away dugout and seeing how he reacts now he is on the ther side of the parapet, but Rowett will be eager to ensure the Lions go back to winning ways and take the three points back to SE16.
WHO ARE YA?
For this week's 'Who Are Ya?', we sit down with Carl Curtis, a Cardiff City fan who contributes towards the Cardiff City Forum. This week we ask Carl, how does he feel about the appointment of Neil Harris, how the festive games should shape up, who Millwall need to look out for and what he thinks the score will be.
1. It’s been a topsy turvy start for Cardiff this season and like Millwall, you have had some managerial changes, how do you think the season is going?
Based on being relegated and keeping a good portion of the squad from the Premier League season, expectancy was play offs. So far that looks unlikely due to our results, particularly away from home. However, we are still just 2 good results from being in there. Overall I would give us a 4 out of 10 for our season so far.
2. Neil Warnock had seemingly got to a point where he had taken the club as far as he could, but his leaving still surprised many. What did you think of Warnock’s departure?
I was one of the few that was not overly fussed with the appointment of Warnock, but I ate my humble pie. He delivered on more than football for us, he united a fractured club from boardroom to fans, that will be - as well as the unexpected promotion - Warnock’s legacy. His departure was right in the timing for myself, some may argue with hindsight, that we should have separated at the end of last season. But based on Warnock’s obvious ability to gain promotion from the Championship, it is difficult to argue against the decision to go again this season with the man.
3. Millwall legend Neil Harris left The Lions to take the reins at the Cardiff City stadium, eyebrows were raised at first, but what do you think of the appointment?
In all honesty, Neil Harris would never have been a name to cross my lips when Cardiff were looking for a replacement. I don’t wish to sound disrespectful but it seemed like a cheap appointment. I am fortunate enough to go to every home and away game and I was very surprised at the style of football that Harris tried from the first kick against Charlton. His first as our manager, the ball was on the deck and we played from the back, that hasn’t been known too us, despite wanting it and I left the Valley the most enthused I have been all season from any game. Yet we drew 2-2 after being 2-0 in the first 25 mins. We could see that he tried this style of play in his first 3 games, however in the last couple, we look jaded and we have reverted to type. I hope that is a result of injuries and suspensions and we quickly get back to playing football on the deck.
4. How can you see the festive games going for Cardiff?
We got 3 tricky games, no easy ones in this league as we all know, we have you on Boxing Day, then Sheffield Wednesday and QPR both away either side of New Year. I would hope that we can win our home match against yourselves and if we can beat QPR away, which would only be a second away win all season, I think that would represent a good return over the festive period. We drew at home to Preston on Saturday, in a real poor City performance. I don’t see us getting anything at Hillsborough. So including Preston I suspect we will have a return of 7 points from 12.
5. This has always historically been a tasty affair. How do the Cardiff fans see this fixture?
Historically this has been a tasty affair to say the least. I think the way the game has changed over the last 15 years or so with newer stadiums, policing, banning orders and jail sentences, the intensity that was once prevalent has diminished dramatically, stewarding in our stadium has hampered the atmosphere also. A sign of the times.
6. Who do Millwall need to look out for?
The most obvious would be Lee Tomlin, who has been getting better since the arrival of Harris. We also have Nathaniel Mendez-Laing who when on form will terrorise full backs and can score quality goals. Those would be our potential match winners, I would think.
7. What do you think the score will be?
I am going to predict a 2-1 Cardiff win, whatever the score line is, I hope you all enjoy your day in Cardiff.
PREDICTION: CARDIFF CITY 1-1 MILLWALL
Festive games always seem to find more players injured than normal and although it's a nice get together for the fans, the boxing Day fixtures seem to be tame on the pitch due to the fact that this is the start of such a hectic schedule. A score draw will be something I think both teams will take and the Christmas points shared.
Come on you Lions.