CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Millwall

BENIK Afobe and George Evans are the latest players added to Millwall’s early-season injury list with both out of the game against Swansea on Wednesday evening.

Afobe has a knee problem and Evans damaged is groin in training last Friday. Both missed the 1-1 draw at West Brom on Saturday.

Rowett is already without defenders Shaun Hutchinson and Danny McNamara.

The Lions were boosted by the return of Mason Bennett at The Hawthorns as he made his first appearance of the season as an 80th-minute substitute for Sheyi Ojo.

With Tom Bradshaw and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson seemingly out of the reckoning for the first XI, Matt Smith could get a second consecutive start.

Smith has shown again how effective he is this season and after Sheyi Ojo’s promising debut against the Baggies Rowett could retain the same front three, with those two alongside Jed Wallace. The Lions could bypass a midfield that will try to press by hitting Smith early and getting runners around him.

Alternatively, Rowett could reunite Bennett with Wallace in a dynamic partnership up front.

The duo struck a combined 11 goals after the turn of the year last season and struck up a telepathic understanding as a front two.

That system would allow Rowett to pick a three-man midfield against a team that will try to hog possession.

But Evans’ absence limits those options.

One solution for Rowett would be to start Ryan Leonard as a right wing-back which would allow Billy Mitchell to move into midfield.

Ben Thompson may also be considered as the Lions will need as much energy in the centre of the pitch as possible to disrupt the Swans’ game.

Wallace and Bennett would then be that threat on the break. There is also the enticing prospect of a front three of Wallace, Bennett and Ojo which would give Millwall pace on the counter-attack across the width of the forward line.

Last season’s beaten play-off finalists Swansea have had a difficult start to the season and are 21st after six games.

Boss Russell Martin only took over from Steve Cooper on August 1, six days before the start of the Championship campaign.

Sheyi Ojo’s pace on the break could be crucial

Martin has been trying to implement a possession-heavy style of play. Swansea had almost 70 per cent of the ball in their 0-0 draw at home to Hull City on Saturday.

But Martin isn’t concerned by their slow start.

“The coaching staff have lived this before,” Martin said in his pre-match press conference. “We know the pain you have to sometimes go through to get to where we want to get to.

“We had more passes in the final third than anyone in the league [last Saturday]. We are getting there a lot, it’s then unlocking the door.

“Now the next bit is taking more risk. Being open to risk the ball in the final third, not worrying about losing it.

“When you’re playing in a team that’s trying to dominate the ball you don’t want to be the guy that gives the ball away. There’s a responsibility to try to protect it and look after it.

“But there is a time where the rhythm of the game needs to change and someone needs to take a risk.

“That will come. I’ve lived this before.”

Swans midfielders Korey Smith and Liam Walsh have returned to training but are doubts for the game.

Swansea have yet to win at home in the league this season.

Possible Millwall starting XI: 5-2-3: Bialkowski; Leonard, Ballard, M Wallace, Cooper, Malone; Kieftenbeld, Saville; J Wallace, Bennett, Ojo.

Match odds: Swansea 6/5 Draw 12/5 Millwall 7/5

Last meeting: Championship (April 10, 2021): Millwall 0-3 Swansea (Ayew 45, Lowe 76, 85).

Millwall: 5-3-2: Bialkowski; McNamara (Romeo, 62), Pearce (Zohore, 62), M Wallace, Cooper, Malone; Evans, Kieftenbeld (Mahoney, 62), Mitchell (Williams, 77); J Wallace, Bennett (Bodvarsson, 78).

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly