Millwall vs West Brom preview: Can table-topping
Baggies seize their chance to pull clear?
(Harriet Lander/Getty Images)

With the chaos that is the January transfer window now out of the way, teams can focus back on the football, as we enter the business end of the campaign.

And the focus needs to shift quickly for sides in an extremely tight EFL Championship. Knowing that finding or losing form at this stage could make or break a season.

For Saturday's opponents Millwall and West Bromwich Albion, the goals are very different. With the hosts looking to sneak into the play-off places, and the visitors aiming for no less than automatic promotion, if not the title.

Story behind the game

West Brom boss Slaven Bilic will be hoping his side can maintain their status as league leaders on Sunday. Last weekend saw the Baggies cruise to a comfortable 2-0 victory over struggling Luton Town, which meant they climbed above Leeds United in the race for the title. Both sides in the automatic promotion places have stuttered of late, so Bilic will be hoping he can now bring some consistent performances. Meanwhile Millwall manager Gary Rowett will be looking for an upturn in results for his side, who have won just one of their last five in all competitions. A goalless draw with Sheffield Wednesday last time out leaves them five points off the play-off places, which is easily within their reach.

West Brom will be looking to end their hoodoo against the Lions, as they have failed to win at the Den in their last nine attempts. This dates all the way back to April 1987, with a 1-0 victory. In more recent fixtures, these sides shared the points at the Hawthorns in August, with Millwall then wining 2-1 when they met in the EFL Cup three days later. So the Midlands side will be looking for revenge.

A victory on Sunday will go a long way towards success for both sides, with West Brom aiming to pull away from the chasing pack, and Millwall looking to close the gap on the teams above them.

Team news

Rowett will be without midfielder Ben Thompson for Sunday's clash. The former Portsmouth loanee is likely to be out for the majority of the rest of the season with an ankle injury.

In the other camp, Bilic has Matheus Pereira available after a three-match ban, however Gareth Barry is still out with a calf injury, whilst Kieran Gibbs is working his way back to full fitness.

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Predicted Line-up

Millwall:

(4-4-2) Bialkowski, Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Wallace, Wallace, Woods, Williams, Mahoney, Bradshaw, Smith.

West Brom:

(4-2-3-1) Johnstone, Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend, Sawyers, Livermore, Phillips, Pereira, Robinson, Austin.

Key Clashes

Shaun Hutchinson v Charlie Austin

Millwall centre-back Shaun Hutchinson has been a mainstay in his side's starting eleven ever since his arrival from Fulham in 2016. He was part of the side when they won promotion from EFL League One, so he will be aiming to help them to promotion once again. The more immediate aim however is to stop West Brom's goal threat Charlie Austin. The striker has nine goals so far this season, and will be looking to make it into double figures on Sunday.

Tom Bradshaw v Kyle Bartley

In terms of goals for Millwall, striker Tom Bradshaw has ten to his name at this point in the season, and will know that him finding the net will be crucial to his side's play-off hopes. The former Barnsley hitman will expect a challenge in breaking down a resolute West Brom defence. And at the heart of that is former Arsenal youth player Kyle Bartley, who endured a difficult time at Swansea City, but is now thriving at a high-flying side who are looking to stay that way.

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What the managers have said

Rowett spoke to the club's media, highlighting how his side need to make it difficult for their opponents in order to succeed. He said:

“We've got to try to make it an uncomfortable game for West Brom, because if we allow them to play at their pace, then it's going to be a good game for them.”

“But we know we have to be at our best, but we go into any of these games and we're trying to win the game, it's as simple as that.

“So that's our challenge, and that's our ambition.”

Meanwhile, Baggies boss Bilic spoke on the club website about his new signings and what they will do for the team. He said:

“With the addition of those few players in our squad that we really need for the rest of the season.

“For the healthy competition, everyone wants to play, everyone wants to prove themselves, and that's a blessing for a manager of course.”

 

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