Crystal Palace will make the short trip to The Den as they take on EFL Championship side Millwall in what could be a tense FA Cup third-round encounter.

Earlier in the season, there was optimism growing among the Millwall faithful about their team securing a play-off spot in the EFL Championship. However, a bad run of results has dampened the mood around the club, although their team, languishing in 11th spot, could still be with an outside chance of promotion.

However, a run of just one win in eight games in the Championship makes it hard for anyone to envisage such a turnaround. They can take a breather from the ups and downs of league football when they welcome Crystal Palace to The Den for an FA Cup clash. Millwall have made it past this stage of the competition in each of their last five seasons.

But in Palace, they face strong yet wounded opponents looking for a win. The Eagles, who had a decent first half of the Premier League season under Patrick Vieira, lost their opening game of 2022 at home to West Ham United. Having gone behind 3-0, Palace tried to stage a comeback with Michael Olise as the architect and pulled two goals back, but could not complete a turnaround.

However, now they have a chance to return to winning ways in the FA Cup clash. They may only have to make a short trip to Millwall but cannot underestimate the hostile nature of the ground, which makes it difficult for many top teams to play at. Moreover, Millwall’s five-match unbeaten record at their home ground could also be a problematic situation for Crystal Palace.

Team News & Tactics

Millwall

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Millwall could be without some of their key players for this crunch clash. Ryan Leonard, Connor Mahoney and on-loan Arsenal player Dan Ballard are all expected to be out of the game with injuries. However, there is a slight hope over Jed Wallace featuring in some capacity despite his ongoing contract saga.

Maikel Kieftenbeld and Mason Bennett could also feature since returning to training ahead of the Palace clash. Bennett, in particular, would be eyeing a spot in the final third ahead of Sheyi Ojo.

It remains to be seen how Gary Rowett lines up his team or the formation he chooses. In many games, he prefers to field two strikers in Tom Bradshaw and Benik Afobe, although if he goes with a more defensive lineup, then Bradshaw could find himself alone leading the line.

And understandably against a Premier League side, the manager might look to field a back three and a midfield four to contain the Crystal Palace stars. Millwall could prove stubborn with such a lineup as they hope to get a positive result from this matchup.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Long; Cooper, Williams, Pearce; Romeo, Mitchell, Evans, Malone; Bennett, Ojo; Bradshaw

Crystal Palace

Patrick Vieira will look to rest some of his first-team stars for this clash and provide an opportunity for the fringe players who have been eager to impress. Jack Butland could come in for Vicente Guaita in goal, while the manager could also alter his central defensive partnership.

Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen could be left out for James Tomkins and Martin Kelly to form the central defensive pairing for this clash. Nathaniel Clyne could get the chance to shine at right-back, with Jeffrey Schlupp an option at left-back.

Will Hughes could get another chance to shine in midfield in place of Conor Gallagher, who has been absent for their last two league clashes. The on-loan Chelsea midfielder may have returned to training, but Vieira might decide to rest him or keep his star on the bench.

The absences of Wilfried Zaha, Cheikhou Koyote and Jordan Ayew due to the AFCON could give a run of games for Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise in the team, with both expected to start against Millwall.

Eze will take up the left midfield role beside Jairo Riedewald, while Olise will become the right-sided attacker in place of Ayew. Christian Benteke and Odsonne Edouard will complete the front three, with the Belgian leading the line through the middle.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Butland; Clyne, Kelly, Tomkins, Schlupp; Hughes, Riedewald, Eze; Olise, Benteke, Edouard

Key Stats

  • Crystal Palace have been losing at both half and full times in their last three FA Cup matches.
  • Crystal Palace have kept a clean sheet in their last three away games against Millwall in all competitions.
  • Crystal Palace are undefeated in their last five games against Millwall in all competitions.
  • Millwall are unbeaten in their last five home games in all competitions.
  • Millwall have made it past the third round of the FA Cup in each of the last five seasons.

Player to Watch

Michael Olise

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The former QPR youngster showed flashes of brilliance earlier in the season during his cameo appearances. And in Crystal Palace’s last encounter against West Ham United, he showcased his talent by almost turning the game on its head and helping his team to an unlikely comeback. The youngster is now expected to get a run of games to show off his talents on a regular basis.

The absences of Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew due to their involvement in the AFCON will prove beneficial to Olise more than anyone else in the squad. The youngster will be utilised regularly and could get the chance to stamp his authority and nail down a place for himself in the lineup for the second phase of the season. He could start this run with a good performance against Millwall.

Prediction

Millwall 1-2 Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace are weakened due to the absence of important stars due to the AFCON, but they certainly have the depth to cover for their absence. The likes of Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze are young guns in need of a consistent run of game time, and this could play in their favour.

However, Millwall have shown resilience at home and will not make things easy for their London rivals. It makes for an even clash that could go into extra time before the winner is decided. Nonetheless, Palace’s superior squad should see them over the line at The Den.

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