CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Millwall vs. Bristol City

GARY Rowett joked he and Adam Barrett might have to tog out this weekend against Bristol City if Millwall suffer any more injuries.

Tongue-in-cheek, of course, but those words will have pricked the ears of Hayden Muller, the nineteen-year-old centre-back who will surely be thinking he has a good shot at a full league debut in the last week of the season.

Rowett was without three right-sided centre-backs last weekend against Watford – Shaun Hutchinson, Murray Wallace and Ryan Leonard – and played Mahlon Romeo there for the first time this season.

Millwall’s current situation is almost a reflection of the league as a whole. Alex Pearce said last week there is always something to play for, but for the Lions that is now just pride, and a top-half finish.

Automatic promotion has already been decided, and we know the four sides that will contest the play-offs.

The only thing we don’t know is who will go down. Wycombe are all but relegated given their vastly inferior goal difference to Derby’s.

Apart from the final placings, all but four teams at the bottom essentially know their fate after 46 games.

It’s a bit of an anti-climax to the regular league campaign.

Millwall can still finish anywhere from eighth to 15th. Not that it matters greatly in the larger scheme of things, though of course their final two fixtures gives them a chance to collect six points. A win on Saturday against the Robins should be enough for a top-half placing for the second consecutive season.

That would send them into the summer in a positive mood, especially after all the injury problems this season and a run of one win in 15 league games that dropped them perilously close to the bottom three before their revival in late January.

Millwall’s Hayden Muller

Millwall have performed well against the top sides – taking points off Norwich and Brentford in their four games this season – yet lost at home to relegation-threatened Derby, Coventry (albeit after a number of the Lions squad had been unable to train after contracting Covid-19) and Blackburn.

Rowett insisted that hasn’t been a topic being talked about by him and his coaching staff.

“There’s not been any real discussions, I don’t think there’s any real reason behind anything,” Rowett said.

“If you look at this season we’ve won a lot of the games against the bottom three or four whereas in other seasons they’ve been banana skins.

“Millwall have often beaten a few of the top teams at The Den. But of course this year we haven’t had the crowd to give us that extra spice and extra atmosphere. So that hasn’t happened as often and we’ve drawn a lot of those games.”

Rowett also referenced the number of goals being scored in the league in this campaign. Millwall have only scored 42 goals in 44 games.

But goals are down across the division. The last time there was a ‘normal’ season (pre-Covid-19), the top six scored 93 goals, 78, 73, 87, 82 and 69.

This season, with two games left and, like 2018-19, Norwich on top, those corresponding numbers are: 69, 61, 73, 73, 54 and 56.

Rowett added: “What we’ve seen this season is, again, it’s goals change games and win games and we’ve not quite had as many as we’d have liked this season.

“But I think you could say that for all the teams if you look up and down the league. Norwich have scored 60-something goals whereas if you look at when they were in the Championship last they were on over 80 by now.

“It’s a low-scoring season.”

Possible Millwall starting XI: 3-4-1-2: Bialkowski; Muller, Evans, Cooper; McNamara, Kieftenbeld, Mitchell, Malone; J Wallace; Bennett, Zohore.

Match odds: Millwall 6/5 Draw 12/5 Bristol City 12/5

Last meeting: Championship (December 15, 2020): Bristol City 0-2 Millwall (Bradshaw 17, Bennett 68).

Image: Millwall FC