Championship preview: Millwall vs. Middlesbrough

FROM no wins in six games it’s now just one defeat in five as things look a lot rosier for Millwall approaching Christmas.

Four points from two games that could so easily have been six has eased the pressure slightly at the start of what looked like an extremely difficult month, and Millwall will relish the visit of Middlesbrough and the chance to add another big scalp to those already collected at The Den this season.

Frustratingly, just when one player comes back into contention another one enters the treatment room. Shane Ferguson is set to be out until mid-January with knee ligament damage, as Shaun Williams returns. Millwall midfield Williams came on as an 88th-minute substitute last Saturday in the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa, before playing for an hour in the under-23s’ 2-1 win over QPR at Calmont Road on Monday afternoon.

Ryan Tunnicliffe has been in good form in Williams’ absence and could keep his place. Aiden O’Brien will continue on the left of midfield with Ferguson out.

Elsewhere, Mahlon Romeo should keep his spot at right-back ahead of Conor McLaughlin after he was part of a back four last weekend that kept an eighth clean sheet in 21 league games this season.

David Martin kept a shutout on his Millwall debut, but Jordan Archer will be recalled after training on Saturday afternoon following a virus that kept him out at Villa Park. Lions boss Neil Harris will need to decide between Martin and Tom King for a place on the bench.

Middlesbrough manager Garry Monk has found himself under pressure this season after taking the job last summer. Monk has won nine out of 21 league games as Boro sit eighth, below what was expected after the club spent over £40million on new players this season.

Last weekend’s 2-0 win over Ipswich was a first in three games, and Monk was keen to praise the players rather than highlight his own role. “It’s not about me, my job is to help the players and to help this club,” Monk said.

“I was just happy for the players for the response and to get the result. Outside influences in terms of the pressure they talk about, I don’t take any notice of.”

In contrast to Harris, Monk is still shuffling around his pack to try to find the right combinations.

Last Saturday, he shifted Stewart Downing to the right wing, attacker Martin Braithwaite to the left with Patrick Bamford in a new role behind Britt Assombalonga up front. Braithwaite and Bamford both scored and Monk could name an unchanged side at The Den.

Millwall shipped eight goals in two games against Middlesbrough in their last Championship meetings in the 2014-15 season.

Form guide

Millwall: DDLWD

Middlesbrough: LWLLW

Millwall record against Middlesbrough

Played 51

Won 18 Drew 11 Lost 22

Possible teams

Millwall: 4-4-2: Archer; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith; Wallace, Tunnicliffe, Saville, O’Brien; Gregory, Morison.

Middlesbrough: 4-2-3-1: Randolph; Christie, Ayala, Gibson, Fabio; Howson, Leadbitter; Downing, Bamford, Braithwaite; Assombalonga.

Match odds

Millwall 9/4 Draw 23/10 Middlesbrough 13/9

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly