Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)
Without an away win to their name so far this season, Millwall travels to Villa Park to take on an Aston Villa side that is seemingly getting healthier by the day.
Although Jonathan Kodjia and John Terry are obviously out for this match, Steve Bruce has spoken words of encouragement for other players that have been on the mend. The gaffer has said in his pre-match comments that Scott Hogan, Mile Jedinak and Gabby Agbonlahor have all returned to full training, and is a positive sign for Villa with a congested fixture list on the horizon. Aston Villa would supremely benefit by having either Hogan or Agbonlahor available as a substitute against Millwall, as young starlet Keinan Davis has been forced to do it all on his own with makeshift strikers substituting him on occasion.
Millwall haven’t had the best run of form at any point this season, and aren’t doing very well over their last five games. Millwall currently sit 17th on the table with 22 points from 20 games. They are also submitting to a very damning statistic that sees Millwall only posses the ball an average of 41% of the time in all matches. The Millwall squad as a whole has also been booked an alarming 28 times and has conceded 268 fouls in total. Millwall will definitely be looking to take a rough game to the Aston Villa players, but if the Villans can keep their wits about them and their eyes forward, it could be a very long day for Millwall and their 2,000+ traveling supporters.
With only one win in the past five games, albeit to Sheffield United at the other end of the table, things have been less than stellar for Millwall manager Neil Harris. The one shining spot for Harris has been the play of midfielder George Saville. The 24 year old Northern Ireland man has notched six goals in the Championship so far, and Saville is also averaging a match rating of 7.35 per game. It is also worth mentioning that Millwall striker Lee Gregory is coming off of a wonderful performance against Sheffield United, enough to gain praise from his boss in his pre-match statements.
This is the first meeting between Millwall and Aston Villa since the 89-90 season the two clubs battled in the top-flight. David Platt scored the lone goal of the game which saw Villa claim a 1-0 victory.
Coming off of a draw to Leeds United, Steve Bruce has a bit of a selection headache on his hands. After going down by a goal in the first half of that game, Bruce threw on Jack Grealish and Henri Lansbury to try and scrape something out of the game. The result was seeing exactly what both Lansbury and Grealish could offer to the Aston Villa squad. Although neither players have ever been scoring machines in their own right, one has to wonder if both men have something in their locker for Steve Bruce to ponder over. All Villa supporters are all well aware of the agility and flair that Grealish possesses and how he has the ability to impact a game. But seeing Lansbury play the kind of game he did against Leeds was refreshing and the midfielder looked as if he had something to prove coming off of a pretty bad knee injury that has left him out for the majority of this campaign. Although Lansburys’ goal to make the game a tied affair wasn’t the most attractive, it may very well be an indication that he believes in his own ability and in a place in the starting eleven.
This game has all of the makings of one that should go Aston Villas’ way. Most pundits are saying that this fixture may very well be a ‘banana slip fixture’ for Aston Villa. That may be the case, but comparing the quality of players from both teams, Villa should be able to gain all three points on the day. Even though Millwall are struggling to set fire to any real run of form, they are not doing as badly as some may think after getting promoted from League One last season. Millwall is most definitely a project these days, and things could be a lot worse for Neil Harris and his players. Surely Millwall will attempt to agitate the Villa players in any way they can, especially with long balls towards and over the Villa back-line. Harris is a decent manager that does real homework on the opposition that he faces. If he can get his midfielders and strikers to target Chris Samba and his lack of pace, this could be a tough game for The Claret & Blue. It would not be the first time the opposition has tried to target specific defensive players, but Steve Bruce seems to have his back four ready for just about anything. This game may very well be looked as a chance for Villa to have a mishap more than for Millwall to take the game, but let’s hope the squad is ready to bounce back with a win after the draw with Leeds.