Millwall vs Middlesbrough Preview: Boro looking to build momentum ahead of busy festive period

Garry Monk's side travel to The Den on Saturday afternoon, where they'll hope to make it back-to-back Championship victories.

Millwall vs Middlesbrough Preview: Boro looking to build momentum ahead of busy festive period
(Photo via Getty Images/ Jordan Mansfield)

Can pre-season promotion favourites Middlesbrough finally get their act together?

Garry Monk’s side have shown signs of making a serious assault on the top six for some time now but every time the Teessiders have looked like clicking, they’ve fallen at the very next hurdle.

This weekend, Boro travel to Millwall, where they’ll hope to make it back-to-back victories following their 2-0 win over Ipswich last weekend.

Neil Harris’ side will also be full of confidence ahead of the Championship clash, after The Lions backed up an impressive win over Sheffield United by taking a point away at Aston Villa.

Even so, with five points separating Boro from the final play-off position, Monk will surely be looking to take maximum points from The Den on Saturday afternoon.

 

 

Team news

Millwall midfielder Shaun Williams is available again after recovering from a knee injury.

The 31-year-old returned to training this week and played for the club’s Under-23 side on Monday.

Goalkeeper Jordan Archer could return after missing the trip to Villa Park with an illness, however the game could come too soon for Fred Onyedinma and Shane Ferguson who are both still recovering from knocks.

The biggest dilemma for Monk could be who to start upfront, after Patrick Bamford marked his first start since September with a goal last time out.

Rudy Gestede has come off the bench in Boro’s last two games after recovering from a thigh injury, while top scorer Britt Assombalonga hasn’t scored in his last three games.

 

 

"They've massively underachieved"

Harris didn’t hide his thoughts on Boro when he spoke to the press earlier this week.

The Lions boss claimed the Teessiders have "massively underachieved" this season following their relegation from the Premier League.

"They’ve probably been a little bit inconsistent," Harris told News Shopper. "They had a really good start then tailed off a bit and then they won some games, lost a couple and came back with a good win and performance last week.

“What’s not lost on us as a group is that they spent £46m in the summer. There’s absolute quality throughout their squad, certainly in the attacking areas.

“It’s a side that have underachieved being eighth in the division, massively underachieved.”

 

 

"We can't afford slip-ups"

The Ipswich result certainly eased the pressure on Monk and could act as a turning point in Boro’s season.

Even so, the Tessiders have been here before, and after recording three successive victories through October and November, Monk’s men then lost three of their next four league games.

The Boro boss has urged his players to build on their momentum this time around ahead of a busy Christmas fixture list.

"As you come into this festive period and out of it into the second half of the season, the margin for error becomes a lot smaller,” said Monk.

"We can’t afford slip-ups like we have been doing, we have to show that same level of hunger to kick on.

"That’s what we’ve been talking about in training this week to take it into this next game."

 

 

Home form the key

Millwall’s home form has been the bedrock of their success this campaign, with all five of their league wins coming at The Den.

As well as Sheffield United, The Lions have beaten Leeds and Norwich on home turf this campaign to stay clear of the relegation zone.

Boro’s away form has been patchy so far this season, with Monk’s men taking 12 points from their 10 games on the road.

The Teessiders haven’t won away from the Riverside since beating Hull 3-1 at the end of October.