Championship preview: Millwall vs. Birmingham

MILLWALL are in front of the live TV cameras for the first time since the play-off final, but Birmingham won’t be worried about making it a spectacle for the viewers on Saturday.

New Brum boss Steve Cotterill has prioritised defensive improvement since taking over following Lee Carsley’s caretaker spell after Harry Redknapp’s sacking.

Carsley’s last game ended in a 6-1 defeat to Hull, but Cotterill was able to quickly instil some defensive resilience as Birmingham defeated league leaders Cardiff 1-0 last weekend.

Cotterill wants his side to continue their improvement against Millwall, as he hinted how he wants them to eventually play.

“It was a real statement beating Cardiff City, who are a very good team. It's important we build upon this result. I am very proud of the team and what they have done for me over the last two weeks.

“As time goes on, the longer I am at the football club, I would want us to probably control the game a little bit more.

"We have some exciting young talent in the side and now we now have to look to improving our league position. I would like us to be a higher tempo team and show promotion form.

"In time we will hopefully want the opposition to press us, we will want them to come on to us. That's going to take a bit of time, though.”

It’s more likely they will sit back against Millwall, something that worked well against Cardiff, who had more shots inside the 18-yard box than any side before last weekend, before Birmingham didn’t allow them a single effort on goal.

Millwall have failed to score in five of their 12 Championship games this season, and they could be without last season’s top scorer Steve Morison on Saturday.

Lions boss Neil Harris has the option of playing Tom Elliott, Fred Onyedinma or Aiden O’Brien up front alongside Lee Gregory, who will be looking to put last weekend’s penalty miss at Brentford behind him. He scored two winners in consecutive games following a double penalty miss at Oldham last season.

Those selection decisions up front will mean another one on the left wing. If Harris decides to go with the more robust Elliott or Onyedinma then it will be Shane Ferguson or O’Brien on the left of midfield.

In defence, Jake Cooper will continue alongside Shaun Hutchinson, who will be captain in the absence of Morison and out-of-favour Tony Craig.

Despite the game being on TV, Birmingham have sold their full allocation and will fil out the top tier of the away end.

Millwall’s record against Birmingham is poor, having won just one of the last 16 games between the clubs going back to 1996, though the last victory was in their last meeting, a 1-0 victory in February 2015 – the Lions’ last away win in the Championship.

Millwall record against Birmingham  

Played 43

Won 10 Draw 11 Lost 22

Form guide

Millwall: WDWLL

Birmingham: LDWLW

Probable Millwall team

4-4-2: Archer; McLaughlin, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith; Wallace, Tunnicliffe, Saville, O’Brien; Gregory, Elliott.

Match odds

Millwall 11/10 Draw 23/10 Birmingham 13/5

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly