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MATCH PREVIEW: Millwall v Sunderland; What a difference a win would make - can we do it?

Sunderland travel to the capital this afternoon to take on Millwall. How will Coleman set his team out to capitalise on recent performances?

Millwall v Barnsley - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

We seem to say it every week, but every week it’s the same story - we have to, at some point, turn a corner and start climbing out of this horrible place.

Games have come and gone and, whilst we’re certainly not cut adrift, if we don’t start winning games soon we will run out of opportunities.

Today’s visit to Millwall, our first since November 2004, is the latest game to be billed ‘must-win’. Some will argue a point on our travels is a good return and when you look at Millwall’s form, you’d be forgiven for agreeing.

Millwall v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship
Neil Harris is doing a fine job at Millwall
Photo by James Chance/Getty Images

The Lions have roared their way to an unbeaten eight game run in the league since thrashing Barnsley in the FA Cup on January 6th. In the last few weeks, Millwall have played a number of teams in our own mini-relegation league and have come away with victories against them all - Reading, Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday and Burton have all failed to take any points off the London side.

The last time they won four consecutive games was November 2012, but this is a great opportunity for them to do so. We arrive at The Den with the worst points return in the division - one win and two draws in 2018 tells its own sorry story. Yet, as the season enters its twilight months, this is the time where the unexpected results start happening.

That wasn’t lost on Coleman during his press-conference yesterday;

At this stage of the season, when the games are so important for one reason or another depending on where you are in the league. So, crazy things happen.

Coleman has started to see performances from his side, if not the points. The lads put in a ninety-minute shift at Bolton, despite the defeat, and fought hard against a powerful Boro side last week to rescue a point. The same spirit shown in the fight-back at Bristol has come to the fore in these last two games. Coleman is sure the wins will come with the improved performances. Indeed, he may even sense the tide turning and sees today as an opportunity;

I can’t say it’s a game you look at and think we can’t go there and take the goods, of course we can. We’ll have to continue in the same vein in terms of our personality and our input into the 90 minutes, as we have done in the last two games.

To achieve that, though, we will need to keep Steve Morison quiet. The striker has three goals and four assists in his last nine league games. The Millwall attack will be a huge test for our defence, where the only change is likely to be Ty Browning returning to the side as Jake Clarke-Salter serves the first of his three game suspension.

The battle may be won and lost in midfield. Millwall tend to play a more traditional 4-4-2 formation, so if Coleman sticks with three in our engine room, the wing-backs will have their work cut out to stop the home side dictating play. If Coleman looks to match them across that midfield, it is important that we don’t leave a lone striker isolated against a strong defence who have only conceded twice in the last six games.

Livingston v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly
Lee Cattemole will have to put in another decent performance to help win the midfield battle
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

We go there with attacking options so it will be interesting to see how Coleman deploys his troops. Whatever formation and personnel, he will expect hard work and another sustained performance. He will also be encouraged by how the game-plan worked against a strong Middlesbrough side and how it may be repeated today.

Can we upset the odds and come away with a much-needed victory? Hull don’t play until Tuesday and two of our rivals - Burton and Barnsley - have had their games called off thanks to the snow in South Yorkshire. So only half of our mini-league are in action today: Birmingham travel to Nottingham, Bolton host Preston and Reading feature in this evening’s kick-off at Wolves.

Three points could take us to third bottom and within touching distance of Barnsley and Hull once more. Psychologically, that would be massive.

It would be a perfect time to register a victory, for, as Coleman says, it will eventually turn;

It doesn’t last forever, it doesn’t, the club will turn around, it will turn around, sooner or later. I’m hoping and praying it’s with me and I’m here when it happens, but sooner or later the club will turn, I promise you.

We’re all praying it’s with you, Chris. We’re all praying it’s today.