Finally, we’re back to normal – League games with a settled squad. City’s participation in the FA Cup proved as cursory and exasperating as usual, while the transfer window plumbed new depths of tedium and idiocy in most parts – except, encouragingly, in Hull. Ahmed Elmohamady not only returned on loan from Sunderland, but has a brace of compatriots for company: Ahmed Fathy and Mohamed “Gedo” Nagy, who’ve signed on loan from Al Ahly. The north African trio boast over 150 caps for the Egyptian national side, no mean feat given that country’s reputation as a regional powerhouse.
Only Elmohamady is available for tomorrow’s fixture at Millwall, but that’s still a significant boost. City have stumbled a little of late, with an extra-time win over Leyton Orient in the Cup the only victory of 2013 thus far. That’s seen the Tigers slip to third in the table, very much still in the promotion race but with the title looking rather improbable. Not an ideal time to be playing a long-standing bogey team, then – away, at least. City’s record away to Millwall is staggeringly awful, with the last win there as far back as 1986. Meetings are comparatively infrequent, though three wins in 28 visits to this corner of London tells its own sorry tale.
That said, this is a different City to most of those who’ve travelled to Bermondsey before. City paggered Millwall 4-1 earlier in the season, a result that emphatically flattered the visitors. Millwall are a decent side with a shrewd (though distasteful) manager, and they’re going to present a fair test. Defeat in midweek put a dent in their play-off ambitions, and hopefully sapped a little energy.
The Lions will have City transfer target of yesteryear Rob Hulse in the side, though Nathan Tyson is injured. Paul McShane is a doubt through illness, though City can call upon David Stockdale in goal once again since his thankful return on loan from Fulham, meaning that long-term injuries aside, both sides are pretty close to full strength. Millwall have a mixed record at home this season winning half but losing five of 14, and while City no longer possess the division’s best away record (that’s now Watford’s) there seems ample opportunity to get things back on track.
Mixed portents translate themselves in bookmaking uncertainty, with neither side particularly favoured. Most have Millwal as marginal favourites, though it’s not unanimous. Both are backable at 7/4, with the draw a 12/5 shot. A rare win at Millwall would be most timely, City…