19:45 KO (BST); September 26th; The Den (London, England)
You could forgive most Millwall fans for being angry at where the side sit in the table.
Admittedly, going into the new season, no one expected the Lions to play so well, but they should definitely have more than the ten points than they do after nine games.
Jed Wallace, James Meredith, Conor McLaughlin and George Saville, four of the eight signings made in the summer, have come into the first choice XI and made places their own.
Reading, in contrast, have not enjoyed a brilliant start. Most Royals fans were expecting to be in and around the top six all season, but it hasn’t happened for them so far.
Yann Kermorgant’s injury, combined with the losses of Danny Williams and Ali Al-Habsi, has hit them hard, but many are becoming increasingly frustrated with Jaap Stam, particularly after his comments regarding the fans on Saturday.
Last time out
Preston 0-0 MILLWALL
This was not a game for the history books. Neil Harris’ side will be happy with a point in a game of very few chances.
Defensively, they were excellent, with all the back four worthy of a shout for man of the match, particularly Byron Webster and Shaun Hutchinson.
READING 1-1 Hull
The Royals scored a late equaliser through Jon Dadi Bodvarsson in a game they totally dominated.
That is Jaap Stam’s style, and they had no less than 74% of the ball on Saturday afternoon.
Their 13 shots were not enough to see them over the line, with fans of the club now missing their talisman more than ever.
Millwall are unlikely to make any changes for Tuesday’s game. Lee Gregory is serving the final game of his suspension after a controversial red card away at QPR, whilst Tom Elliot is likely to be out injured until after the international break.
Reading academy graduate Jake Cooper will start on the bench provided Hutchinson and Webster do not pick up any late injuries.
Yann Kermorgant is still out for Reading and is likely to be until next month. Joseph Mendes, Modou Barrow, Leandro Bacuna and Jordan Obita are also out with injuries.
Key battle: Jed Wallace vs Tyler Blackett
Former Wolves man Jed Wallace is not a man you want to be up against when he’s in full flow. Just ask Vurnon Anita.
The Leeds full-back had a torrid time against the Lions’ summer signing last weekend, and Wallace will hope to trouble the Manchester United academy product just as much.
He isn’t all about one thing either, which means he can cause more problems. Wallace’s acceleration off the mark is very impressive, but he has the technical ability to complement his pace.
The twists and turns that Anita faced confused him, and he couldn’t cope. In that game, Wallace’s end product wasn’t at its finest.
However, he is the joint top scorer so far and has an excellent crossing range usually. Blackett will need to be at his best on Tuesday to deal with the winger.
Can Millwall make The Den a fortress?
When Millwall’s stadium is nearly full, no opposition player will enjoy his experience there. To be fair, many cannot enjoy it even with a smaller crowd.
It is one reason the Lions’ home form is always so strong, and Harris will want to replicate that feat this season.
Leeds’ players couldn’t cope with a near sell-out Den, but the attendance will be smaller on Tuesday night. Still, the atmosphere can be intimidating, and Millwall have seven points from twelve so far at The Den.
Reading’s so-called ‘boring’ style of play will only add to an already excited Millwall crowd as they become annoyed at Stam’s total football which so often results in very little this season.
A settled squad vs Stam’s tinkering
For the third consecutive game, I would expect Neil Harris to play the same starting XI. He has no reason to change it, particularly with the only options in attack (where the worst players were on Saturday, arguably) being injured or suspended for this game against the Royals.
The likes of Conor McLaughlin, James Meredith, Shaun Williams and Shaun Hutchinson (to name a few) have all been excellent, and do not deserve to be dropped for any reason.
In his time at Reading, Stam has almost become known as the tinkerman of this division, which causes problems of its own.
The squad is unsettled, and that means players don’t develop partnerships and relationships that are as strong, possibly harming the overall chemistry of the squad.
Can the Royals cope without Kermorgant?
Reading have struggled without their talisman this season, formerly of Bournemouth and Charlton.
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson hasn’t been able to replace his goals so far, something that is causing yet more frustrations with both the Madejski Stadium faithful and their manager, former United centre-back Jaap Stam.
The pace of Sone Aluko up front could still cause Millwall problems, but the player signed from Fulham in the summer isn’t known for getting you twenty or thirty goals in a season.
Stopping crosses into Bodvarsson will be crucial to Millwall’s defensive duties, but Hutchinson and Webster can keep him out of the game, anyway.
PREDICTION: Millwall 2-0 Reading
With Reading struggling for goals and Millwall in good spirits after some strong performances so far this campaign, I can’t see anything but a home win on Tuesday night.
There are too many frustrations surrounding Reading at the moment, and the players will find it difficult at The Den. I wouldn’t bet against Steve Morison and Jed Wallace scoring.
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