Championship preview: Millwall vs. Middlesbrough

JIRI Skalak could make his debut for Millwall in the first game of the 2018-19 season against Middlesbrough at The Den on Saturday.

Skalak, 26, has trained twice with his new team-mates since completing his move from Brighton.

He last played a league game in April 2017, but was part of Brighton’s pre-season campaign.

Lee Gregory has returned to training after his partner went into labour before Jimmy Abdou’s testimonial last weekend.

Lions boss Neil Harris has a number of selection decisions to make. Fred Onyedinma started up front with Steve Morison last Saturday but Gregory is favourite for a centre-forward role alongside the club captain.

Shane Ferguson scored the winner in a 1-0 friendly vcitory at Welling on Monday. He is vying with Aiden O’Brien, and potentially Skalak – with the Czech Republic international’s fitness to be assessed – for the left-sided midfield position.

The other summer signings, goalkeeper Ben Amos and centre-back Murray Wallace, are set to be on the bench. Byron Webster could also be involved in the first-team squad on a match-day for the first time since last September.

Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper will renew their centre-back partnership from last season.

“You look forward to every test,” Hutchinson said. “You go into the meeting room on a Thursday and you’re looking at this opponent who is a big lad, or this guy who is quick or who drops deep and who goes behind.

“There are a lot of different talents in this league and different types of systems. But that’s one of the reasons we love the game, because there are so many different ways of playing it.”

Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis will be without £5million midfield signing from Sunderland, Paddy McNair, and defender Daniel Ayala.

There is speculation over a number of Boro players, with centre-back Ben Gibson and winger Adama Traore linked with big-money moves to Burnely and Wolves, respectively.

Pulis is also unhappy with how little business he has been able to do this summer, with McNair and £7million Aden Flint from Bristol City the only first-team signings. Pulis has also lost Patrick Bamford to Leeds.

“I want to do lot more, the club wants to do lot more, we need to a lot more,” Pulis said. “We’re behind, we’re well behind. we’ve got injuries to key players as well.

“[We're] going into this week well behind where we wanted to be but we know, we have to accept we’re behind and hopefully fingers crossed this time next week we have to accept we’ll be in better situation.”

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

Probable Middlesbrough team: 4-3-3: Randolph; Shotton, Flint, Gibson, Friend; Howson, Leadbitter, De Sart; Traore, Assombalonga, Downing.

Match odds

Millwall 7/4 Draw 2/1 Middlesbrough 6/4

Last season

Millwall 2-1 Middlesbrough; Middlesbrough 2-0 Millwall

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly