Rotherham United - MK Dons preview: Important opener for relegation favourites
MK Dons will have to upset the odds if they are to be celebrating again come the end of the season - image via ITV

Rotherham United and MK Dons meet at the former's home for the seventh time in their history despite the Dons facing a series of opponents they have not yet come up against yet since their reform, with the London-based latter only 11 years of age.

A fiery affair is likely to be in store, with the two managers exchanging words over Karl Robinson’s perceived lack of respect for the club in the past after he responded bitterly after Steve Evans' side levelled late on, coming back from a 0-2 deficit on the final day of the 2013/14 campaign.

Team news

The Millers have almost reached full fitness after being riddled with injuries to full-backs Lewis Buxton and Joe Mattock, but have instead found a safe haven in Greg Halford and Joe Newell for those positions respectively. A defensive pairing that have put in promising pre-season performances, both are likely to be starting on either flanks come Saturday. 

However, the Rotherham backline are without half of their on-loan Derby County duo in Farrend Rawson. The centre-half will return to the New York Stadium shortly to resume training with his loan club following a minor niggle picked up recently. At the other end of the pitch, Danny Ward is expected to return for contention for a place in the frontline after being unable to shake off a knock following a pre-season encounter with Leicester City little more than a week ago.

Robinson’s men are injury-free thus far and the manager will have a full complement of players from which to choose, unless there is to be an issue in last-minute preparations. However, they have failed to replace several of their key players in Will Grigg and Dele Alli, whereas their opponents' ex-employees such as Ben Pringle and Kari Arnason are already out of sight and mind with replacements having brought in. Both sides will feature several debutants, with 12 new faces in the Reds’ squad and Robinson recruiting nine.

A relegation six-pointer already?

What they do have in common, on the other hand, is the odds for relegation. If the bookies are anything to go by, the two teams will be embroiled in a battle to avoid the drop zone, as is to be expected with a side that flirted with the bottom three last season and another who were only promoted at the end of last season. Both are also working with tight budgets for the second tier.

Those in red and white are emerging as the favourites though, having surprised some by the pedigree of players that have been brought in during the transfer window. Additionally, masses of home support, with the South Yorkshire outfit having been forced to open sections of the away end to their home fans due to demand, will help the Millers faithful in getting behind their team.

Where Dons have lost their last five friendlies, Rotherham triumphed over Bundesliga side FSV Mainz last time out which, on paper, is no easy task. However, history suggests that the Championship new-boys have the head-to-head record on their side, with United yet to claim three points against Saturday’s opponents.

Recent history

Two terms ago was the last time these two met and, although Rotherham were to be promoted that season, the full-time scorelines suggested the Dons were the ones heading for the promised land. MK Dons edged it 3-2 in the home leg but played out a 2-2 stalemate in the return fixture. Late goals from Michael O’Connor and Alex Revell frustrated the travelling support's head coach enough for him to speak poorly of his rivals.

Yet, the two bosses do share something in that they spearhead the race for the Championship’s longest-serving manager, the Scot falling just short of his opposite number's five-year reign.

Both remain devoted to their cause, but how the only 34-year-old fares in his first season at a higher level may go some way to deciding the winner in the race for that particular crown