MILLWALL kick off a daunting September fixture schedule at one of the favourites for the Championship title when they go to The Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion this Saturday.
The Lions were boosted by the signing of attacking midfielder Sheyi Ojo on deadline day, though there are still injury concerns in the squad.
Millwall will definitely be without vice-captain Shaun Hutchinson and right wing-back Danny McNamara.
Ryan Leonard, ordinarily an option to replace McNamara, is a doubt after a hip injury. He and Mason Bennett trained this week, the latter hoping to make his first appearance of the season after recovering from an ankle problem.
If Leonard misses out, Billy Mitchell is set to start again on the right side of a back five.
Boss Gary Rowett will have his fingers crossed that Daniel Ballard – who scored his first international goal last week in a 4-1 win over Lithuania – and George Saville return from international duty with Northern Ireland without any problems.
The issue for them is they are set to have only one full training session with Millwall ahead of the Baggies game. They were due to return to Calmont Road on Thursday after Wednesday evening’s World Cup qualifier against Switzerland in Belfast.
Ojo joined the squad for the first time late last week. Rowett discussed where he can get the best out of the on-loan Liverpool.
“I think he can play anywhere across the front areas,” Rowett said. “The one position he probably wouldn’t be as comfortable in is an out-and-out number nine because that doesn’t necessarily suit his skillset.
“But anywhere down the side, in behind in those little spaces where he can pick things up and go at people is where he’s best.
“He’s been brought up as a winger and playing in a front three. I’m always of the mindset if you’re a good player you can play in different positions and affect games in different ways.
“Certainly his pace is going to be something that comes in handy as well.”
Ojo outlined what he can bring to the team. He told millwallfc.co.uk: “Courage to get on the ball as much as I can, beat players and get a few goals and assists. I want to help my team in any way I can. I’ve been a team player over the last few years and I’m looking to do that again and progressing even further.”
West Brom appointed a new manager in the summer and made seven signings. Valerien Ismael gained many admirers when he led Barnsley into the play-offs after only taking over in October 2020. Barnsley lost 2-1 to Swansea in the semi-finals and the Baggies swooped to appoint Ismael in the summer.
Ismael has brought in plenty of Championship experience, including Matthew Clarke and Jordan Hugill on loans, and Alex Mowatt and Adam Reach on permanent deals.
And there could be a familiar face in the opponents’ line-up on Saturday after Jayson Molumby joined on a loan deal from Brighton in the last week of the window.
Ismael said: “It was the player we wanted. I say normally that we have a clear picture of our squad, but we wanted a small door open if there was an opportunity, and for us it was exactly the case.
“With his volume, his intensity is perfect, but now we need to work with him, for sure.”
Possible Millwall starting XI: 5-3-2: Bialkowski; Mitchell, Ballard, Cooper, M Wallace, Malone; Evans, Kieftenbeld, Saville; J Wallace, Afobe.
Match odds: West Brom 4/7 Draw 3/1 Millwall 7/2
Last meeting: Championship (February 9, 2020): Millwall 0-2 West Brom (Krovinovic 42, O’Shea 84).
Millwall: 4-2-3-1: Bialkowski; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, M Wallace; Woods, Williams (Bradshaw, 77); J Wallace, Molumby, O’Brien (Mahoney, 59); Smith (Bodvarsson, 59).
Image: Millwall FC